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BEST OF 2015 // #84: Molecule Solves Mystery

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BEST OF 2015 // #84: Molecule Solves Mystery

Buckyballs, which are a real thing, are carbon compounds, shaped something like a soccer ball.  They are very strange.  Scientists have discovered that they can survive inside of stars and they can absorb the light from that star.  And that has helped solved a 100 year old mystery.

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Back in 1919, Mary Lea Heger, a graduate student at UC Berkely, noticed that some stars in space seem to be missing some of the colours from their light waves.  Heger assumed something that was between the star and earth was absorbing the light, but couldn’t figure out what.

In 1993, John Maier led a team at the University of Basel and they discovered that buckyballs which were encased in a frozen solid absorbed the colours in the same way that Heger observed.  But would they behave the same way in intersteller space?

In July of this year, Maier and his team were able to prove that it was possible.  The team froze buckyballs to almost absolute zero and then suspended them in a vacuum – as close to the conditions of space can be replicated in a lab.  The balls did in fact absorbed the same colours.

Science had solved it’s mystery.

There’s 99 more stories from 2015.  Check out the Best of 2015 series here

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