JUL 23, 2019 6:00 AM PDT

"Buckyball" Molecules Found in Deep Space

WRITTEN BY: Daniel Duan

The intricacy of life's chemical components has been baffling scientists for a long time. How do simple molecules such as carbon dioxide and methane get transformed into complex life-based molecules such as amino acids, sugars, and nucleotides? 

Recently an increasing amount of evidence suggested that the existence of complex organic molecules in the outer space is more common than previously thought.

In 2012, NASA scientists first discovered a large quantity of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (or PAHs) in the interstellar medium, the seemingly barren space between star systems. These complex organic molecules can be chemically modified and become amino acids and nucleotides via a few reactions.

This July an international collaboration led by NASA found something even bigger—C60 fullerene, also known as the buckyball—by combing through near-infrared absorption data collected from the Hubble Space Telescope. First synthesized in the 1980s in the laboratory, fullerene is famous for its soccer ball-resembling structure, made of twenty hexagons and twelve pentagons.  

The confirmation of free-floating fullerenes in the deep space reinforces the idea that the carbon-based molecules are continuously recycled, transformed, and redistributed.  

Source: Anton Petrov via Youtube

About the Author
  • Graduated with a bachelor degree in Pharmaceutical Science and a master degree in neuropharmacology, Daniel is a radiopharmaceutical and radiobiology expert based in Ottawa, Canada. With years of experience in biomedical R&D, Daniel is very into writing. He is constantly fascinated by what's happening in the world of science. He hopes to capture the public's interest and promote scientific literacy with his trending news articles. The recurring topics in his Chemistry & Physics trending news section include alternative energy, material science, theoretical physics, medical imaging, and green chemistry.
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