Carbon Spaceballs Spotted in Cosmic Dust

Telescope discovers giant 'buckyball' molecules
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 23, 2010 2:28 AM CDT
Carbon Spaceballs Spotted in Cosmic Dust
'Buckyballs' were named after architect Richard Buckminster Fuller, whose geodesic domes they resemble.   (NASA)

A type of carbon only seen before in Earth laboratories has been spotted in a cloud of cosmic dust by NASA's Spitzer telescope. "Buckyballs"—soccer ball-shaped molecules made up of 60 carbon atoms—are the largest molecules ever seen in space. Buckyballs have been made in labs by scientists attempting to recreate the atmospheres of giant, carbon-rich stars.

The find "provides convincing evidence that the buckyball has, as I long suspected, existed since time immemorial in the dark recesses of our galaxy," the scientist who won the Nobel Prize for discovering buckyballs tells the BBC. "All the carbon in your body came from star dust, so at one time some of that carbon may have been in the form of buckyballs." (Read more buckyballs stories.)

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