Thursday, July 22, 2010

Buckyballs found in space

Astronomers with way to much time on their hands have found something very small, with a silly name and guess what... it's super far away, hanging out not around a swimming pool in Cabo San Lucas, but in the nebula around a white dwarf star.
How many of you remember these?
C60, an artists impression
Buckyballs are normally found in chemistry labs, where scientists vaporize graphite in the presence of helium, while talking in high pitched Mickey Mouse voices. (Too much time on their hands also, shouldn't you be curing cancer or something?)

These buckyballs are made from 60 Carbon atoms, arranged in a pattern similar to the hexagon/pentagon construction found on a standard soccer ball.

For people who enjoy math and science here is the geek-speak. C60 molecules have a van der Waals diameter of 1 nanometer, 3 times the size of a water molecule. They were discovered in the nebula Tc-1, a mere 6,500 light years away from Earth. They are nicknamed buckyballs from the scientific name of Buckminsterfullerene, (C60-Ih)[5,6]fullerene.

C60 has a big brother with 70 carbon atoms, cleverly named C70. After hearing this, Memorex have renewed their copyright and intellectual rights on the now obsolete C90 cassette tape, just in case.

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