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The most authentic Space Toys on Earth!

Solid buckyballs found in space. The carbon molecules have been seen stacking together near stars. This is the first time buckyballs have been spotted in solid form.

Buckyballs in Space.


Nasa's Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed solid stacks of 'buckyballs' in space. Previously, the football-shaped microscopic spheres of 60 carbon atoms - formally called buckminsterfullerene - had only been found in interstellar space in a gaseous form.

Using Spitzer, Nye Evans from Keele University and his colleagues discovered the particles around X X Ophiuchi, a pair of stars that lie 6,500 light years away.

Although the stacks are much narrower than human hair, they contain millions of buckyballs. The astronomers detected enough of them to fill a volume equivalent to 10,000 Mount Everests.

History

Buckyballs were detected definitively in space for the first time by Spitzer in 2010. Spitzer later identified the molecules in a host of different cosmic environments. It even found them in staggering quantities, the equivalent in mass to 15 Earth moons, in a nearby galaxy called the Small Magellanic Cloud.

In all of those cases, the molecules were in the form of gas. The recent discovery of buckyballs particles means that large quantities of these molecules must be present in some stellar environments in order to link up and form solid particles. The research team was able to identify the solid form of buckyballs in the Spitzer data because they emit light in a unique way that differs from the gaseous form.

Buckyballs are microscopic spheres, where 60 carbon atoms are arranged — with alternating patterns of hexagons and pentagons — into a football-like pattern. The unusual structure makes them incredibly strong and ideal candidates for things like superconducting materials, medicines, water purification and armor.


They got their name because of their resemblance to the geodesic domes of the architect Buckminster Fuller.

So far, they’ve only been found in gas form in space. In 2010, astronomers using the Spitzer space telescope found the balls in a planetary nebula called Tc 1.

But with this latest discovery, again using data from NASA’s Spitzer space telescope, astronomers found particles consisting of stacked buckyballs. They had stacked together like oranges in a crate to form a solid shape.

“The particles we detected are minuscule, far smaller than the width of a hair, but each one would contain stacks of millions of buckyballs,” said the paper’s lead author Nye Evans of Keele University in England.

The research team was able to identify the solid form of buckyballs in the Spitzer data because they emit light in a unique way that differs from the gaseous form. In all, the team detected enough solid buckyballs to fill the equivalent in volume to 10,000 Mount Everests.
 


Did you know?

* Formally named buckminsterfullerene, buckyballs are named after their resemblance to the late architect Buckminster Fuller's geodesic domes. They are made up of 60 carbon atoms arranged into a hollow sphere, like a soccer ball. Their unusual structure makes them ideal candidates for electrical and chemical applications on Earth, including superconducting materials, medicines, water purification and armor.

Buckyballs in Space Links:

NASA's Spitzer Finds Solid Buckyballs in Space: by NASA's JPL (article dated 22 February 2012). Also source of picture. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.


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Updated: Tuesday 1st, April, 2014

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