By Joshua Sokol
Regular readers may have the same expectations of this column as they would a safari: something huge has to show up.
Greedy black holes. Giant lava lakes. Stars too big to exist. Even the comparatively small stuff in outer space, like asteroids or geologic features on a world’s surface, would effortlessly dwarf you if stood in front of them in a space suit.
But on scale far below the cosmic megafauna is a different world, one of tiny carbon molecules mixing and changing in the void. Its poster child is the charming buckyball, a curious round agglomeration of carbon atoms.
This chemical ecosystem can be a nuisance for astronomers, because the little molecules block out parts of the light we see from stars and galaxies. But it’s also important on its own.
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