The website for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Cal Tech is reporting the discovery of carbon buckyballs in space.
"We found what are now the largest molecules known to exist in space," said astronomer Jan Cami of the University of Western Ontario, Canada, and the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif. "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." Cami has authored a paper about the discovery that will appear online Thursday in the journal Science.
Buckyballs are made of 60 carbon atoms arranged in three-dimensional, spherical structures. Their alternating patterns of hexagons and pentagons match a typical black-and-white soccer ball. The research team also found the more elongated relative of buckyballs, known as C70, for the first time in space. These molecules consist of 70 carbon atoms and are shaped more like an oval rugby ball. Both types of molecules belong to a class known officially as buckminsterfullerenes, or fullerenes.
The extraterrestrial existence of buckyballs has long been predicted, but never previously confirmed. Nobelist Sir Harry Kroto, discoverer of buckyballs, has said, "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."
"Buckyball" rare earth magnets are also available in the Neatoshop.
Link. Photo: 3D computer model of buckyball molecules, by ALAMY