We Just Found a MAJOR Clue About How Life Started in the Universe Thanks to Buckyballs

We Just Found a MAJOR Clue About How Life Started in the Universe Thanks to Buckyballs


Space isn’t as empty as you might think; in between the stars, there’s lots of dust and gas, what’s known as the interstellar medium. This is the stuff that makes planets and possibly, life. Most of the interstellar medium is made up of simple atoms, like hydrogen and helium, but there’s a lot more out there that we’ve never been able to identify. That is, until the Hubble Space Telescope, that venerable old workhorse, called DIBs. By DIBs I mean Diffuse Interstellar Bands. It’s a pun. To get it, it’s probably best if you understand how we figure out what’s floating around out there in space. Stars give off light. Obviously. And for that light to reach us, it has to travel through all that dust and gas between the star and us. When it hits these atoms and molecules, some wavelengths of light get absorbed. Once the light finally reaches us, we can split it into a spectrum, and the absorbed wavelengths appear as dim or missing bands. These bands are like the element’s or compound’s fingerprint. All we have to do then is match the absorption spectrum to that of known elements or molecules, and bingo, we’ve got an idea of what’s floating around out there in the beyond. Well, easier said than done. Identifying the absorption spectrum of single atoms is a piece of cake, there’s only so many elements and we can catalogue the patterns they make easily. But the tricky thing about atoms is that they combine with one another in all sorts of arrangements, and when they do, the absorption pattern they make gets more complicated. When we observe starlight, a broad range of colors are missing, and in patterns unlike any known atoms or molecules on Earth. These are the Diffuse Interstellar Bands, or DIBs. There. Now you can go back to the start of the video and laugh. Masterful joke telling, Julian. We have spotted over 400 DIBs, but until recently we haven’t been able to conclusively identify any of them despite decades of trying. There are just millions of molecules to test them against, it would take lifetimes to go through them all. Making the task even harder, water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere can prevent ground-based telescopes from spotting absorption patterns. That’s where Hubble and a little luck comes into play. Up above most of the atmosphere, the telescope had an unobstructed view to observe the DIBs. It peered at blue supergiant stars right along our galactic plane, where the light would have to travel through the most gas and dust. Even so, the aging hardware had to be pushed beyond its usual sensitivity limits. And joy of joys, it actually spotted an absorption pattern scientists recognized. Hubble picked up the signature of a molecule called C60. C60 is, as you might have guessed, made up of 60 carbon atoms arranged in a hollow sphere. It resembles a soccer ball, or the famous geodesic domes of Buckminster Fuller, so it’s also known as Buckminsterfullerene, or Buckyballs. C60 has been spotted in space before, but Hubble detected a version of it that has been ionized by ultraviolet light. Stripped of an electron, these buckyballs are positively charged so they’re technically C60+, and this marks the first time they’ve been seen in the interstellar medium. Confirming C60+ has some interesting implications. First, it shows just how complex molecules in space can get. Before C60 was spotted, the next most complex compound was made up of just 12 atoms. The ionized form of C60 shows that these large molecules can form even in harsh ultraviolet-irradiated environments. And the team that found it thinks this points to other large complex carbon-based molecules that can explain many of the still unidentified DIBs. This could be a huge clue as to how life itself started. All life we’ve seen is carbon based because the element is perfect for bonding with other atoms to make molecules. If carbon-based molecules can spontaneously occur in the interstellar soup that gives rise to planets, maybe they’re the seed from which life springs. Still, there are a lot more DIBs that need explaining, but thanks to Hubble and some spheres of carbon, we think we’re on the right track. Buckminsterfullerene has also rarely been spotted here on Earth in rocks, minerals, and soot from high-temperature combustion. If you liked this video, check out this video Maren did on schwarzites. Make sure to subscribe and I’ll see you next time on Seeker.

82 comments on “We Just Found a MAJOR Clue About How Life Started in the Universe Thanks to Buckyballs

  1. Seeker Post author

    Hi, thanks for watching! If you enjoyed this episode of Elements, check out this video we did on schwarzites: https://youtu.be/FWENEXM5S3E and let us know in the comments what you want us to cover next!

    Reply
  2. The Mask Post author

    Man im at 225 do you ever get to the find. 303 still not there, and im no longer here by

    Reply
  3. Micio Rosso Post author

    I can't believe that after the massive damage religion has done to humanity people still believe in it. This world is really full of fucked up people.

    Reply
  4. Bronson Murphy Post author

    Click bait bullshit. I just wasted 4 minutes of my life finding out there are a multitude of large molecules in universe we know nothing about and we are still no closer to being able to identify these molecules.

    Reply
  5. Austin Post author

    They don't actually know if this is a major clue to how life started. No one has any idea how life could have started from none life.

    Reply
  6. David Gatherer Post author

    Change the title of the vid, you don't need click bait titles if you've something worth saying.

    Reply
  7. justin h Post author

    Buckeyballs are also the largest molecule anyones been able to reproduce the double slit experiment with.
    And this title is so misleading..

    Reply
  8. Andrew Ludlam Post author

    Science rocks, early astronomer Galileo was in fear of his life from religious groups for proving the earth wasn't the centre of the universe as stated in the book of fiction.

    Reply
  9. Nicholas Deitrich Post author

    Stop with the cringe jokes please you will are losing subscribers because of your dumbassery

    Reply
  10. Whiteliger1 Post author

    Final conclusion – we still have no idea how life started but let's step on the toes of religious people again just cuz.

    Reply
  11. DerRobMann (R.T. West) Post author

    My name's not Bucky, but I think the principle still applies. Two years after my prostrate cancer radiation therapy regime, I had what the doctors call "The Implant". I prefer to call it "The Love Pump" — an artificial, fluid-filled, hydraulic pump… a 3rd testicle… well, a "ball' really, to assist in forming a higher level firm relationship with another. You can probably guess where this is going. Yup! Of course. One night a female ET entered my bedroom. We talked for awhile. Great chemistry. Her name was Pam. One thing led to another… and, we awkwardly had what I like to refer to as "Boom-Boom", she "An otherworldly experience", and an instance where the doctors strongly recommend, "Would be a good time to use a condom." It all happened so fast. I didn't. There are a lot of theories out there that point to the likely existence and proliferation of life in the Universe. Personally, I favor "Pamspermia." Saludos, desde Colonia Centro Historico, Puebla, Mexico, DerRobMann sends…

    Reply
  12. 인형바보 Post author

    And then the next question after we know how life started would be, Where do those Carbon come from??

    Reply
  13. Ed Trillo Post author

    Lol this explains complex carbon atoms are out there, but that’s it. If we want to find clues on how life started, science needs to figure out what consciousness is first and stop being afraid to talk about it.

    Reply
  14. Brandon Clarke Post author

    Nothing exploded and have us something. You know how large that nothing was? That nothing was hot and dense and small and large.

    Reply
  15. Horis Stedman Post author

    What about all of the elements that may not be on earth??? There is a book about the origin of life!?

    Reply
  16. Sam kela Post author

    Wasn’t Hubble launched like 50 years ago? How do they figure they keep coming up with random shit like this with dinosaur tech?

    Reply
  17. HighSensGamer Post author

    Aight boys we need this tweet to be at the top here’s my point of view on creation like it up and get to thinking.

    The first thing people ask is “who created the creator?” But those same people don’t stop to think about the question and it’s context for a second. Think about this. So, before the universe there was nothing right? That’s a fact. So, it was NOTHING as in it didn’t have our matter, energy, space, time or laws. So. If it didn’t have TIME let alone anything else. If it was j nothing how could there be a , who was here BEFORE/who created the creator debate? There was nothing. Nothing is something we can’t comprehend and never will so maybe the nothing was everything in terms of that’s all a creator was, not bound to the laws and space and time which only were CREATED when the universe was born so why would time or ANYTHING for that matter constrict a creator to, “WeLl WhO cReAtEd ThE CrEaTor?” When those laws weren’t in existence? Think about it. What’s more bizzare that, EVERYTHING coming from NOTHING which. Breaks the biggest. Matter cannot be created nor destroyed, law we have. Or that it’s possible. Just possible not saying , THERE IS A CREAOTR OMG SHUT UP U Athiests. J saying, is that harder to believe over EVERYTHING coming from Nothing? With perspective I j gave u. Think about it.
    1. We came from nothing which breaks the biggest rule in science
    2. We are here for a reason/there is a creator etc bc how could the creator be bound to the laws of our universe that wasn’t in existence, meaning it’s possible that the “nothing” before was inter dimensional /spiritual?

    Just a different way to look at things I swear no one has thought of this perspective so I had to type it out just this once.

    Reply
  18. shawn foogle Post author

    So basically, this was a huge waste. Hope someone reads this before wasting 4 minutes

    Reply
  19. Julio Rojas Post author

    I can deal with the lukewarm content, but a totally click-bait title? MAJOR disappointment.

    Reply
  20. klaudio kosta Post author

    You really need to clean your camera lenses, I wiped that nasty dot on your right side many times before realizing it wasn't my screen

    Reply
  21. Richard Rodriguez Post author

    As you mentioned, as light travels from its origin to us, it may be partially absorbed by other celestial bodies. How do scientists know that some of the missing spectral bands are due to certain molecules existing in the original source and not because of a specific stellar object absorbing a specific wavelength totally, making it a different pattern when it reaches us? So having to identify patterns of absorption made by all atoms and billions of molecules, you may also have "lost" patterns? Then I guess that instead of hard, it would be a near-to-impossible job at such a great distance. Also, since not all objects are moving relative to us, how is possible red-shift or blue-shift filtered here as for the color of the received spectra? Because, after all, it is about a pattern of absorbed and possibly reflected bands of colors. The Hubble telescope just tackled one of the many obstacles, our atmosphere. And while the data we receive is stunning, due to what is described above and given the huge distances, it all may not be what it seems.

    Reply
  22. kyle mckenzie Post author

    This post I'm typing could prove where the universe came from. I call it the 'toast post' because toast is awesome and awesomeness is the key to all existing life. This was known to even the cavemen who knew what awesomeness was when they laughed at their fellow beings clonking themselves on the head with a club.

    Reply
  23. The clan 2.0 Post author

    Yes but america decided to put the sats up with spacex , so its more than finding something , the decision as to what we do next as a planet a specie has been made for us , on our behalf . I want us to be natural and work in balance with all our nature here , if ebola can spread so can love .

    Reply
  24. Jacob Ali Post author

    If you look at the numbers it is more likely for a fighter jet to be built from a tornado flying through a scrapyard than for life to have just started with no creator.

    Reply
  25. The Retrospective Post author

    Cool news. However, to explain origin of planets or life from C60, as is, would be a fallacy of association. "Love is metaphysical gravity." – Buckminster Fuller

    Reply
  26. A Diamond Post author

    The shirt.. it should be Argh! The element of surprise ..
    (I like your shirt anyway btw)

    Reply
  27. Joker Prosper Post author

    What if the patterns of a planet change? Could that be a sign that the life there was intelligent enough to develop technology? That they built a customizable lights source?

    Reply
  28. TheStrangeSlav Post author

    God created this world. People are saying the world is millions of years old…. what? What if God had already made everything with age? What about the B.C. timeline? (B.C. stands for before Christ if any of you didn’t know).

    Reply
  29. Alex Valdez Post author

    Ya what if we do figure out how the universe was created.? Then we can solve traffic congestion ??????

    Reply
  30. Gram T Post author

    i'm confused. why is this such a fuss? sure, carbon is a good candidate to form "molecules of life" because of its ease of interaction with other elements. but how does having carbon clumped together to form a structure like C60 or C60+ a leap from the individual carbon atoms that are already present in primodial environment anyway? does this just show that carbon is even better at interacting with other elements that we previously thought? or is this finding pointing to the possibility that early life molecules are carbon-based? i thought that's long been established to be the theory or at least the mainstream explanation for abiogenesis

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *