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Space Science

Solid Buckeyballs Detected In Space 73

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the ophiuchi-chosen-for-space-burning-man dept.
astroengine writes with an excerpt from an article at Discovery: "For the first time, 'buckyballs' have been discovered in the cosmos in a solid form. 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. '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.'"
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Solid Buckeyballs Detected In Space

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  • by cellocgw (617879) <cellocgw@gmail . c om> on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @01:35PM (#39126923) Journal

    Proto- replicators. Watch them grow and take over the galaxy.

  • Oranges in a crate form a solid? I thought the crate still gave it the overall structure? Take away the crate, and the oranges all come tumbling down.

    • You are assuming there is gravity....
      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        There IS gravity, why do you think the buckyballs stick together? It's the gravitational attraction between the buckyballs themselves.

        • true, i should have said 'you are assuming there is enough third-party caused gravity to overcome the gravity between the buckeyballs.'
    • Re:Flawed analogy? (Score:5, Informative)

      by slew (2918) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @02:07PM (#39127425)

      Oranges in a crate form a solid? I thought the crate still gave it the overall structure? Take away the crate, and the oranges all come tumbling down.

      Perhaps piled like cannonballs is a better analogy. Although in a grocery store, you can see piles of oranges w/o a crate.

      Of course "tumbling down" is just because the earth's gravitational forces are larger than the forces that bind the oranges to each other (electrostatic and gravitational). Without the earth's gravity, you don't get "down"...

      BTW, theoretical work on this has been going on for a while [roaldhoffmann.com], it's only the recent observation that is newsworthy...

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      No, the crate just bears some weight at the edges because the attraction between oranges is weak compared to gravity. Oranges in a crate are stacked just like carbon atoms in graphite, and graphite's certainly a solid.

      • by slew (2918)

        No, the crate just bears some weight at the edges because the attraction between oranges is weak compared to gravity. Oranges in a crate are stacked just like carbon atoms in graphite, and graphite's certainly a solid.

        Actually, oranges in a crate are stacked more like carbon atoms in C60 (a buckminster fullerene). The atoms in graphite (stacked graphene) are more akin to stacked egg cartons as graphite is organized in layers.

        • by blueg3 (192743)

          Actually, oranges in a crate are stacked more like carbon atoms in C60 (a buckminster fullerene). The atoms in graphite (stacked graphene) are more akin to stacked egg cartons as graphite is organized in layers.

          The carbon atoms in C60 aren't stacked, they form a hollow sphere and they're distinctly not like stacked oranges. At this point it's probably easier to be specific. Oranges, like any other collection of weakly-interacting spheres, are stacked HCP or FCC. HCP and FCC are nearly the same and both can be viewed as consisting of "layers".

  • ftfy (Score:1, Redundant)

    by stewsters (1406737)
    They are made up of 60 carbon atoms arranged into a hollow sphere, like a soccer ball.
    • They are made up of 60 carbon atoms arranged into a hollow sphere, like a soccer ball.

      You sure use little soccer balls in your league.

  • Like say, asteroid sized hunks of buckyballs. That would be pretty cool, as currently we have to manually produce all of them ourselves. From what I've heard they have some pretty useful properties that we've only just started to make use of...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    May the Schwartz be with you.

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @01:51PM (#39127183) Homepage

    Buckyballs have been discovered in nature before. When this first happened it was somewhat surprising because they seemed difficult to synthesize. But they've since been discovered in a variety of natural contexts. One really neat example is how they've been found in craters from meteorites, apparently produced during the formation of the craters as well as by forest fires in some limited circumstances- http://www.psrd.hawaii.edu/Feb01/permianImpact.html [hawaii.edu]. One neat thing about this is that since buckyballs are large and hollow, they can when they form actually trap small atoms, generally atoms that are noble gasses (especially helium and argon). So, looking at what these buckyballs have can give us information about the atmospheres and conditions where the buckyballs formed. This is overall part of a large trend in the last twenty years where we've learned how many alternate carbon structures there are. Chemists used to think that while carbon had great versatility when combined with other elements (hence the large variety of chemicals used in life) that the chemistry of pure carbon was fairly prosaic. Since then, the discovery of buckyballs, nanotubes, and other structures have shown that carbon has complicated and interesting chemistry even in its pure form.

    The work being done here is part of the general work done by the infrared Spitzer telescope http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spitzer_Space_Telescope [wikipedia.org]which has been as a whole really amazing for all sorts of astronomy. There are some really neat and entertaining videos explaining the work they've done, like this one with Felicia Day http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjRJeaNtxN4 [youtube.com]. Unfortunately, Spitzer ran out of coolant in 2009, which substantially reduces which instruments can be used and how precise observations it can make. One major good thing about Spitzer is that it isn't in Eart orbit but is rather in orbit around the sun, so we don't need to worry about it becoming a space debris problem, or need to worry about bringing it down early before it dies (to prevent orbital bombardment), so we can keep getting good data from it until the very last instrument croaks.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      You're already at a score of 5 but I just wanted to say thanks. This is the type of information I expect from Slashdot.
      • This is the type of information I expect from Slashdot.

        You're trying for the coveted "+5 funny", aren't you.

  • And I thought they were talking about this magnetic toy that I have a few sets of and thought how odd. http://www.getbuckyballs.com/ [getbuckyballs.com]
    • Whereas I saw an article about a child having medical complications from swallowing buckyballs and wondered how he came in contact with buckminsterfullerines...
    • by photonyx (2507666)
      Bucky Badger [wikipedia.org], the University of Wisconsin mascot, gives "buckyballs" a whole new dimension.
  • So all of Jack's old cosmic comics were right...

    Next thing you know Stan Lee will be taking credit for buckyballs.

  • Might just be bubble tea...
  • Who installed a microscope in the telescope mount?
  • I find this kind of bullsh*t mind blowing that some telescope can detect microscopic formations of bucky balls in space. Not space dust, not some kind of gaseous cloud, but actual god-damned bucky ball formation the width of a human hair.

    And to what point. So what, I say. There is tonnes of crap deep in the cosmos that we can't even fathom, let alone detect, but now we know there are bucky balls out there somewhere, woohoo.

    I think astronomers make sh*t up just to justify their lives. "Hey look, bucky ba

  • This is gonna make it tough for those Buckeys to reproduce.
  • If they're only now finding these structures in space, could buckyballs be part of the missing "dark" matter?

    8-PP

    • by walter_f (889353)

      AFAIK, "dark matter" is supposed to be "exotic matter" so buckyball structures don't belong here.

      Also, AFAIRC, it is called "dark" in the sense that it does not interact with light (photons) at all.
      It doesn't reflect light, it doesn't absorb certain frequencies of light, either.

      So spectrography (or is it spectroscopy?) - which has been used for the detection of the buckies mentioned in the article - wouldn't be of any help to detect dark matter, let alone analyze its internal structure.

      • Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that the buckeyballs themselves are dark/undetectable matter. Instead that the whole invention of "dark matter" was a placeholder to explain all the extra mass that observations imply but instruments couldn't detect.

        So if this is the first time scientists are detecting these buckey-structures in outer space, doesn't it seem logical that they 1) have mass, 2) weren't detected before, and therefore 3) could be a percent of the unknown matter ("dark" matter) that wasn't previousl

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