Feeds

Spitzer spots first solid buckyballs in stellar disc

Stacks the size of 10,000 Everests found

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

The first solid “buckyball” Carbon-60 molecules have been spotted forming a ring around a star 6,500 light-years away, according to data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.

A new paper reports a pair of stars called "XX Ophiuchi," with what looks like a disc of the molecules - dubbed Buckminsterfullerene after the architect who used a similar geodesic style - in orbit around one of the stars. In total they have a mass equivalent to 10,000 Everests, but in practice form a thin ring in orbit around a B-class subdwarf star in the system.

"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 the paper published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, in a statement. "The particles we detected are miniscule, far smaller than the width of a hair, but each one would contain stacks of millions of buckyballs."

Natural buckyball crates found in orbit

Buckyball ring stacks up in stellar orbit

Spritzer caught the first glimpse of gaseous Carbon-60 in 2010, but this first sighting of the formations as solids, suggesting that they may be more common than first thought. While Buckminsterfullerene occurs naturally in some forms of soot and minerals, it’s only in the last 20 years that humans have been able to synthesize it in appreciable quantities of the pure form.

"This exciting result suggests that buckyballs are even more widespread in space than the earlier Spitzer results showed," said Mike Werner, project scientist for Spitzer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "They may be an important form of carbon, an essential building block for life, throughout the cosmos." ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.