OSHAWA, Ontario, July 23 (UPI) — Canadian astronomers say they’ve found buckminsterfullerene, also known as buckyballs, one of the strongest molecular structures known on Earth, in outer space.
The molecules were discovered in the remains of a distant star by a University of Ontario team led by astronomer Jan Cami, the online journal Science reported Thursday.
Buckyballs, named because of their resemblance to the geodesic domes of architect Buckminster Fuller, were discovered during experiments on Earth designed to reproduce conditions in space.
It was assumed they’d be found throughout space, but 25 years of searching failed to find them — until Cami and his team started looking at data gathered by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.
“Realizing people have been looking for this for a long time made it quite exciting,” Cami said.
Buckyball molecules, made up of 60 carbon atoms, have been found on Earth in meteorites and some minerals.
“It is one of the most stable, most durable molecules that we know of. Because they are so stable, they can withstand radiation and even cosmic ray bombardments to a certain extent,” said Cami.
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