ScienceDaily (July 23, 2010) — Astronomers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have discovered carbon molecules, known as “buckyballs,” in space for the first time. Buckyballs are soccer-ball-shaped molecules that were first observed in a laboratory 25 years ago.
They are named for their resemblance to architect Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes, which have interlocking circles on the surface of a partial sphere. Buckyballs were thought to float around in space, but had escaped detection until now.
“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 appears online in the journal Science.
Ah yes, Buckyballs. Sixty carbon atoms arranged in hexagons and pentagons- a shape that is very resistant to destruction. They’re very stable, surviving high energy, harsh radiation and even cosmic rays hitting them. Carbon, the basis of animal and plant life here on earth, apparently is floating around this universe in massive quantities, awaiting its gravitational attraction with some ‘heavenly’ object, some other earth-like surface.
Can there be any doubt about how and why carbon and life are tied so intricately together? As Carl Sagan often said, “We truly are star-stuff!” And, correspondingly, so much for that Genesis mythology.