Buckeyballs, spheres of pure carbon shaped like a soccer ball, have been found in a piece of the Allende meteorite that landed in Mexico in 1969--the first evidence that the exotic molecules can be found in nature. The spheres, named after Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome, were first synthesized in chemistry labs in 1985. The new finding, reported in today's Nature, confirms speculation that they might be found in space.
Luann Becker of the University of Hawaii said the multiple atoms in the buckeyballs form a closed cage that can trap gases. Coming from space on meteorites during the early stages of Earth's history, they could have delivered carbon, an essential element of life, and the volatiles that contributed to the planetary atmospheres essential for the origin of life.
--Compiled by Times medical writer Thomas H. Maugh II