What are Buckyballs? Find Out Here!

by Ryan On July - 23 - 2010

You may have never heard of buckyballs, but now you have a choice: turn back now and go about life in ignorant bliss or continue reading and see how deep this cosmic rabbit hole goes.

Excellent choice, Neo.

NASA’s Spitzer Telescope has discovered what astronomers call buckyballs in space for the first time. Buckyballs, also called Fullerenes, are carbon molecules arranged in a spherical shape with geometric patterns similar to those found on soccer balls. They are named after architect Buckminster Fuller and his geodesic dome designs (think the giant golf ball at Epcot in Orlando, FL).

The existence of buckyballs was predicted by a Japanese man, Eiji Osawa, nearly fifteen years before they were actually observed in experiments on Earth. This, however, marks the first time they have been seen in space. “”We did not plan for this discovery, but when we saw these whopping spectral signatures, we knew immediately that we were looking at one of the most sought-after molecules.” says astronomer Jan Cami.

The buckyballs are now the largest molecules to have been observed in space. They are also significant in other ways as Cami notes “We are particularly excited because they have unique properties that make them important players for all sorts of physical and chemical processes going on in space.”

Carbon is an essential part of life on Earth. Now that we’ve found it floating about in space, we may be one step closer to saying hello to E.T.

You can view the official NASA press release here and go to wikipedia to learn more about buckyballs.

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