Fullerenes were discovered in the early 1990s almost by accident when chemists were looking to explain diffuse spectral bands from cosmic dust. Now, the all-carbon soccerball molecules have truly gone extraterrestrial as Jan Cami of the University of Western Ontario, Canada, and colleagues have found evidence of gigantic clouds containing both C60 and C70 in the planetary nebula Tc 1, 6,000 light years from earth in the southern constellation Ara. Until now, the largest molecules identified had a mere 13 carbon atoms. The infrared spectrograph on NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope provided the data on Tc 1.
Buckyballs in space