With a team of astronomers at her side, Letizia Stanghellini, of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory spotted four more buckyballs in space–one of which is in the neighboring galaxy Small Magellanic Cloud, 210,000 light-years away.

Buckyballs (named after American architect, inventor and dome-loving visionary Buckminster Fuller), are made-up of a third form of solid carbon, a close cousin to diamond and graphite.  They were discovered 25 years ago in chemistry and were recently found in space near a dead star. Scientists are at a loss to explain these latest sightings of buckyballs in such hydrogen rich, deep space environments.  One theory is that their complex, pentagonal and hexagonal molecular holding cages may act as packaging in the transport of single atoms or small molecules throughout the galaxy.

Not all buckyballs remain so far away—many have crashed into Earth alongside meteorites containing gases from beyond our solar system. The discovery of buckyballs in these new territories speaks to the role they have, and continue to play in the story of our universe.


Image by Nasa.gov