Buckyball Solids Found in Space
- February 23, 2012 |
- 10:30 am |
- Categories: Space
By Mark Brown, Wired UK
After finding gaseous clouds of buckyballs in space last year, astronomers have now discovered the carbon balls in a solid form, around a pair of stars some 6,500 light-years from Earth.
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.
“This exciting result suggests that buckyballs are even more widespread in space than the earlier Spitzer results showed,” said Mike Werner, project scientist for Spitzer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “They may be an important form of carbon, an essential building block for life, throughout the cosmos.”
Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech [high-resolution]
Steve Fly 33.