Comet Lovejoy releases alcohol, sugar into space

Credits: Fabrice Noel via NASA.gov

EARTH (WTNH)– Scientists have discovered a comet that for the first time ever is pumping out alcohol and sugar into space.

According to NASA, Comet Lovejoy is living up to its name by releasing large amounts of ethyl alcohol, the kind in alcoholic beverages, and a type of sugar into outer space. Nicholas Biver, of the Paris Observatory, says that the comet releases as much alcohol as 500 bottles of wine every second during its peak activity.

NASA says these findings support evidence that “comets could have been a source of the complex organic molecules necessary for the emergence of life.”

In addition to the ethyl alcohol, researchers found 21 organic molecules including glycolaldehyde, which is simple sugar. The research team observed the atmosphere of the comet when it was at its brightest and most active when it passed closest to the sun on January 30th of this year.

“Sunlight energizes molecules in the comet’s atmosphere, causing them to glow at specific microwave frequencies (if microwaves were visible, different frequencies would be perceived as different colors). Each kind of molecule glows at specific, signature frequencies, allowing the team to identify it with detectors on the telescope,” NASA explained in a release.

The comet was first discovered in August 2014 by amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy. At its peak it was the brightest and most active comet since Hale-Bopp in 1997, but it has since moved away from Earth and faded from view.

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