Buckyballs – Cosmic Soccer Balls

… NASA/JPL: Buckyballs Fullerenes – Cosmic Soccer Ball Molecules.

Mini soccer balls in space: The World Cup may be over, but there are soccer balls still bouncing in space. Astronomers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have discovered soccerball-shaped molecules, known as “buckyballs”.

The animation illustrates that buckyballs closely resemble old fashioned, black-and-white soccer balls, only on much smaller scales.

Buckyballs jiggle like jello: The artist’s animation illustrates vibrating buckyballs — spherical molecules of carbon discovered in space for the first time by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.

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A fullerene is any molecule composed entirely of carbon, in the form of a hollow sphere, ellipsoid, or tube. Spherical fullerenes are also called buckyballs, and cylindrical ones are called carbon nanotubes or buckytubes. Fullerenes are similar in structure to graphite, which is composed of stacked graphene sheets of linked hexagonal rings; but they may also contain pentagonal (or sometimes heptagonal) rings.

The first fullerene to be discovered, and the family’s namesake, was buckminsterfullerene C60, prepared in 1985 by Robert Curl, Harold Kroto and Richard Smalley at Rice University. The name was an homage to Richard Buckminster Fuller, whose geodesic domes it resembles. Fullerenes have since been found to occur (if rarely) in nature.

The discovery of fullerenes greatly expanded the number of known carbon allotropes, which until recently were limited to graphite, diamond, and amorphous carbon such as soot and charcoal. Buckyballs and buckytubes have been the subject of intense research, both for their unique chemistry and for their technological applications, especially in materials science, electronics, and nanotechnology.



  1. Thanks- nice demo- I am reading "The Grand Design" by Hawking and Mlodinow and am scouring the net for video and animation to help me visualize some of the things discussed therein.

    Anybody know of a demo for the bucky ball/two slot experiment?


  2. How, if these "bucky balls" are microscopic carbon molecules, can the Spitzer Space Telescope even detect them? I get the whole "wavelengths of light" concept… but these things are tiny.

    If anyone can explain I'd appreciate it!
    Also… how abundant are these things?

  3. i suppose that in the end it all comes down to one thing; information. i personally dont get why a sport that doesn't kick the ball very far should be called football, but if i said that where i live? they'd put me on trial for treason, lol. soccer (the name) makes little sense anyway. i'm an american who doesn't care about sports. go figure.

  4. @guitardemon6
    Guitardemon, to be clear, I like America and his citizens. I was there on holidays last summer. You have a beautiful coutry and I met many open and social people.

  5. @guitardemon6
    The answer is very simple: because it gives the impression that you think that you are the centre of the world and everybody has to adapt to America. This whole thing started when the world foodballcup was organised by the USA and all of a sudden you detected that there was a name conflict with a game that only you play (and not the rest of the world), so the logical humble position should have been to rename your own game instead, which by the way, is not played with feet.

  6. Really fascinating! I did a project about nanotechnology and brain in high school, about how buckyballs could be used as drag carriers to tumors, multifunctional carrier vectors. I'd definitely like to learn more about them now that I'm at the uni.

  7. Suckerballs? I suppose he means Footballs. to my opinion there is no game that is called "soccer". There is only a game they play in the USA, which they call "football", but has nothing to do with football. It's not because Americans alone play that game that they have the right to give the game that the rest of the world plays with their feet, another name. they should instead rename their own game.

  8. I have a quick question…Carbon atoms have a valency of 4, but the buckyball only shows each atom being connected to 3 other atoms, what happened to the other bond? Is there a double bond somewhere? Or does it become metallic like where the electrons are shared out all over the molecule?

  9. @ThaDRP This form of carbon has been known since the late 1920's, its just that they discovered it floating around in space in dust clouds of other matter.

  10. This is incredible. I just finished reading 3001: Odyssey 4 by Arthur C. Clarke today and in the last few pages he states buckminsterenes / buckyballs. I come home and go onto youtube and in my subsciptions is a new vid uploaded called buckyballs. Blew my mind, i love cosmic coincidences like that.

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