back to article Spitzer 'scope spots Buckyballs in spaaace

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has sniffed out Carbon-60 molecules in a distant nebula - the first detection of "Buckyballs" in outer space. A team led by astronomer Jan Cami of the University of Western Ontario, Canada, and the SETI Institute, unexpectedly spotted the miniature footballs in planetary nebula dubbed Tc 1. A …


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  1. Efros
    Thumb Up

    Molecules with sunglasses

    Title of a Horizon documentary from years ago covering the discovery of the C60 and C70 compounds and the subsequent characterization of the structure of the molecules. Great program, the title derives from Kroto's theory that the structure of the buckyballs would render them immune to most of the radiation that deep space could throw at them, and hence they would be out there somewhere. Looks as if he has been proven right at long last.

  2. Pavlov's obedient mutt

    blah blah blah


    after a week of no drinking (don't ask) this article just addled my unsoaked brain..

    make it stop...

    make it STOP!!!

    1. Schick

      @ Pavlov's obedient mutt ...

      ... Oh well, back to The Beano then ...

  3. TeeCee Gold badge


    "...have since been found to exist in nature, notably in candle soot."

    Did they get the IgNobel as well? "Simulating Red Giant Atmospheric conditions using a high-powered laser and graphite to sucessfully recreate the by-product of an ordinary household candle" sounds like a guaranteed winner to me.......

  4. MrAverage


    I call fake! That picture definitely looks photoshopped to me!

  5. Michael 28


    where are the Diamonds at?

    1. Captain Thyratron


      Falling through the atmosphere of Neptune, possibly.

  6. Fading

    Bucky O Hare anyone?

    Whenever I read about buckyballs I have the theme music from Bucky O'Hare running through my mind - just me, oh, right. I'll be off then.

  7. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

    Futbols in Space

    terrified local residents fear the Coming of the Great White Athletic Shoe

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I for one welcome our new fullerene overlords*

    *Simulated image. Fullerene overlords not depicted to scale. Fullerene overlords not visible to the naked eye. Fullerene overlords typically much smaller than planetary nebulae. Planetary nebula depicted for illustrative purposes only. E&EO. ROAR. TOGTFO.

  9. Chris65

    About time

    Back in 1989 I accompanied a colleague from UCL to Mt Stromolo and observed a bunch of cool carbon stars using the 74" telescope looking for C60. Turned out we were looking in the wrong part of the spectrum so nice to know it's been found at last.

  10. Captain Thyratron

    That's quite a find.

    It's amazing what atoms can do if you let them float around in space and react with each other for several billion years. Eventually they might accumulate on young planets and give rise to creatures that post comments to threads like this one.

    In all seriousness, it's pretty neat that somebody found buckministerfullerenes out there. While the argument that they're resilient and can stand up to cosmic radiation is pretty convincing, I'm still kind of amazed somebody found them. I mean, somebody figured out all of those modes of vibration and the emission/absorption spectra, without knowledge of which this discovery would have been rather more difficult, if not practically impossible. The fanciest spectroscopy I ever got up to was observing the split in the Balmer alpha line of hydrogen caused by the additional presence of deuterium. These guys are a century ahead of me.

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Story comes full circle?

    IIRC part of the original work of the Kroto/Smiley team was to see if you *could* make this molecule as one of the products of an exploding star.

    With actual samples of the thing you're looking for in hand it becomes *much* simpler to find it's spectrum (I'd guess a molecular simulation with such an interconnected molecule would be a nightmare to run) and then go look for it.

    With proof of Fullerenes existing in interstellar space perhaps its time to start looking for some of their derivatives (trapped metal atoms, tubes). They seem to have storage and catalytic properties which suggests the range of possible reactions that *could* occur (or that are now energetically likely) is *much* larger.

    A new generation of SciFi is confidently expected.

  12. Martin Budden Bronze badge

    counting fail

    there are 5 blue arrows

    1. Anonymous Coward

      @ FAIL

      There are six.

  13. Ross 7

    Science funding ftw

    "Bob Curl, Harry Kroto and Rick Smalley created it in the lab by firing a laser at a graphite disk..."

    "Buckyballs and other fullerenes have since been found to exist in nature, notably in candle soot."

    You can imagine the meeting where they discussed filling out the funding application

    Bob: We should get a massive laser and shoot it at some carbon!!

    Rick: Hmm, the models show that you could probably do it with just a candle.

    Bob: LASER!

    Rick: It would be cheaper and easier and...

    Bob: LASER!!!!!

    Rick: Seriou...

    Bob: LASER!!!!

    Harry: OK, but where do we keep the shark?

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