Buckeyballs Found in Space by NASA Telescope

Buckeyballs are soccer-ball shaped carbon molecules that were first observed in in a laboratory 25 years ago. NASA reports that these elusive carbon molecules were spotted in space by the Spitzer Space Telescope.

Why are they called "buckeyballs"?

The name originated as a result of buckeyballs' resemblance in appearance to geodesic domes, designed by architect Richard Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller.

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Astronomer Jan Cami of the University of Western Ontario, Canada, and the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California had this to say on the discovery:

We found what are now the largest molecules known to exist in space. 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.

A paper authored by Cami will soon appear in the journal Science. The NASA site states:

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.

Read the full news release. Watch the video below:

Cosmic Soccer Balls