“Cosmic Buckyball Particle ‘Factory’ Discovered”

"Buckyballs begin to accumulate together, slowly stacking to form a solid particle." - NASA-JPL Caltech
“Buckyballs begin to accumulate together, slowly stacking to form a solid particle.” – NASA-JPL Caltech

Ian O’Neill reports for Discovery.com that, “For the first time, ‘buckyballs’ have been discovered in the cosmos in solid form.

He writes:

Until now, the only evidence in space for the bizarre little hollow balls of carbon atoms have been in interstellar gases, but with the help of NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered buckyballs accumulating and stacking atop one another to form solid particles.

O’Neill describes buckyballs as, “A geodesic molecular ordering of 60 carbon atoms that resemble the domes designed by American architect and inventor Richard Buckminster Fuller.”

He also remarks on the superconductivity of these buckyballs that are often found in soot on earth, but have been spotted by the Spitzer telescope in the, Clouds of planetary nebulae.”

It turns out that the buckyballs have been detected once again, this time in “bushels” in space.

O’Neill continues:

While studying a binary star system called XX Ophiuchi — 6,500 light-years from Earth — astronomers detected buckyballs not in a gas form, but accumulated together, forming tiny particles. The light emitted by stacks of buckyballs produces a unique infrared emission.

“These buckyballs are stacked together to form a solid, like oranges in a crate,” said Nye Evans of Keele University in England, lead author of a paper appearing in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. “The particles we detected are minuscule, far smaller than the width of a hair, but each one would contain stacks of millions of buckyballs.”

This is the part where graphene enters the picture.  O”Neill suggests that buckyballs and graphene could be “lurking in space”?

Graphene carbon is fancy material, and indeed worth investing in from what I understand.  O”Neill writes:

Understanding the formation processes behind buckyballs — and stacked solid particles of buckyballs — may be critical for us to understand how life (which is carbon-based) may have started.

“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 in Pasadena, Calif. “They may be an important form of carbon, an essential building block for life, throughout the cosmos.”

Read the full article, click here.

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