Scientists spot largest molecules in space

Scientists spot largest molecules in space

The roughly spherical molecules consist of a "third type of carbon", after graphite and diamond, which occur widely on earth.

Buckyballs, on the other hand, have only been created in labs and have never before been proven to exist elsewhere, reports The Telegraph.

The BBC reported that a research group used an infrared telescope owned by Nasa to spot the buckyballs in "a cloud of cosmic dust surrounding a distant star".  
They were looking for something else when they spotted the infrared signature of large objects that turned out to be buckyballs.

The signature came from a star in the southern hemisphere constellation of Ara, 6,500 light-years away.

The researchers, who were led by Jan Cami from the University of Western Ontario in Canada, published their findings in the journal Science.

Buckyballs are molecules made of 60 carbon atoms joined together in a sphere.
Their name is a nod to Richard Buckminster Fuller who, among other things, created architectural designs for geodesic domes, such as can be seen at Cornwall's Eden Project.
Sir Harry Kroto, who shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of buckyballs, told the BBC: "All the carbon in your body came from star dust, so at one time some of that carbon may have been in the form of buckyballs."