Space Balls (Buckyballs)

Spitzer_ssc2010-06b_1024

spitzer_ssc2010-06b July 22nd, 2010

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (SSC)

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has at last found buckyballs in space, as illustrated by this artist's conception showing the carbon balls coming out from the type of object where they were discovered -- a dying star and the material it sheds, known as a planetary nebula.

Buckyballs are made up of 60 carbon atoms organized into spherical structures that resemble soccer balls. They also look like Buckminister Fuller's architectural domes, hence their official name of buckministerfullerenes. The molecules were first concocted in a lab nearly 25 years ago, and were theorized at that time to be floating around carbon-rich stars in space.

But it wasn't until now that Spitzer, using its sensitive infrared vision, was able to find convincing signs of buckyballs. The telescope found the molecules -- as well as their elongated, rugby-ball-like relatives, called C70 -- in the material around a dying star, or planetary nebula, called Tc 1. The star at the center of Tc 1 was once similar to our sun but as it aged, it sloughed off its outer layers, leaving only a dense white-dwarf star. Astronomers believe buckyballs were created in shed layers of carbon that blew off the star.

Tc 1 does not show up that well in images, so a picture of the NGC 2440 nebula, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, was used in this artist's conception.

Provider: Spitzer Space Telescope

Image Source: https://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/image/ssc2010-06b-space-balls-buckyballs

Curator: Spitzer Space Telescope, Pasadena, CA, USA

Image Use Policy: Public Domain

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Image Details

Image Type
Artwork
Subject - General
Star > Evolutionary Stage > Black Hole
Star > Circumstellar Material > Disk > Accretion
Galaxy > Activity > AGN > Quasar
Galaxy > Component > Center/Core
Spitzer_ssc2010-06b_1280
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ID
ssc2010-06b
Subject Category
E.3.1.10.   E.3.7.2.2.   E.5.3.2.1.   E.5.4.9.  
Subject Name
Credits
NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (SSC)
Release Date
2010-07-22
Lightyears
Redshift
Reference Url
https://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/image/ssc2010-06b-space-balls-buckyballs
Type
Artwork
Image Quality
Good
Distance Notes
Facility
Instrument
Color Assignment
Band
Bandpass
Central Wavelength
Start Time
Integration Time
Dataset ID
Notes
Coordinate Frame
Equinox
Reference Value
Reference Dimension
Reference Pixel
Scale
Rotation
Coordinate System Projection:
Quality
FITS Header
Notes
Creator (Curator)
Spitzer Space Telescope
URL
http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu
Name
Email
Telephone
Address
1200 E. California Blvd.
City
Pasadena
State/Province
CA
Postal Code
91125
Country
USA
Rights
Public Domain
Publisher
Spitzer Science Center
Publisher ID
spitzer
Resource ID
ssc2010-06b.tif
Metadata Date
2021-08-04T07:28:10Z
Metadata Version
1.2
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