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NASA Telescope Finds Elusive Buckyballs in Space for First Time

Astronomers using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope have discovered carbon molecules, known as 'buckyballs,' in space for the first time. Buckyballs are soccer-ball-shaped molecules that were first observed in a laboratory 25 years ago.

They are named for their resemblance to architect Buckminster Fuller's geodesic domes, which have interlocking circles on the surface of a partial sphere. Buckyballs were thought to float around in space, but had escaped detection until now.

'We found what are now the largest molecules known to exist in space,' said astronomer Jan Cami of the University of Western Ontario, Canada, and the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif. 'We are particularly excited because they have unique properties that make them important players for all sorts of physical and chemical processes going on in space.' Cami has authored a paper about the discovery that will appear online Thursday in the journal Science.
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