A researcher who uses carbon dating on ancient times

Atoms are arranged as a nucleus surrounded by an electron cloud, with electrons zinging around at different distances from the nucleus.Chemists conceive of these distances as shells, and define the properties of atoms by what is in each shell, according to the University of California, Davis.This method works on once-living organisms, including objects made of wood or other plant material.Carbon is a long-studied element, but that doesn't mean there isn't more to discover.Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 years, meaning that after that time, half of the carbon-14 in a sample decays away, according to the University of Arizona.

The end result: Atoms with six protons and six neutrons — carbon.

[See Periodic Table of the Elements] Carbon occurs naturally as carbon-12, which makes up almost 99 percent of the carbon in the universe; carbon-13, which makes up about 1 percent; and carbon-14, which makes up a minuscule amount of overall carbon but is very important in dating organic objects.

As the sixth-most abundant element in the universe, carbon forms in the belly of stars in a reaction called the triple-alpha process, according to the Swinburne Center for Astrophysics and Supercomputing.

By vaporizing graphite with lasers, the scientists created a mysterious new molecule made of pure carbon, according to the American Chemical Society.

This molecule turned out to be a soccer-ball-shaped sphere made of 60 carbon atoms.

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Carbon has two electron shells, with the first holding two electrons and the second holding four out of a possible eight spaces.

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