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Comet carries alcohol, sugar

Lovejoy observations show molecules preserved from solar system’s birth

2:00pm, October 23, 2015
Comet Lovejoy

COMET COCKTAIL  Comet Lovejoy (pictured) is carrying around ethanol and the simple sugar glycolaldehyde, a new study reports.

Like a roving interplanetary cocktail bar, a comet is carting around booze and sugar. The aptly named Comet Lovejoy contains ethanol and the simple sugar glycolaldehyde, researchers report online October 23 in Science Advances. This is the first time these complex organic molecules have been detected on a comet.

Ethanol and glycolaldehyde have been found around young stars where planets are forming (SN: 5/2/15, p. 10). Finding these molecules on a comet — a frozen time capsule from the birth of the solar system — suggests that they are preserved from the sun’s formative years. While comets probably didn’t play a major role in delivering water and organics to the young Earth (SN: 5/16/15

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