There’s A Whole Lot of Alcohol on Comet Lovejoy

NASA.gov

NASA.gov

While some scientists are busy discovering liquid water on Mars, and other ones are off in search of alien structures, some scientists are getting closer to figuring out exactly how life originated on earth. Comet Lovejoy could be a key in the equation.

In an article by NASA hilariously entitled “Happy Hour on Comet Lovejoy,” the space organization revealed that the comet is giving off huge amounts of ethyl alcohol—the same found in alcoholic beverages—when the comet’s materials are melted by the heat of the sun during its orbit. It’s also releasing simple sugars and complex organic compounds, all the things that scientists say were necessary to originate life on earth.

“We found that comet Lovejoy was releasing as much alcohol as in at least 500 bottles of wine every second during its peak activity,” said Nicolas Biver of the Paris Observatory, France, lead author of a paper on the discovery in Science Advances.

 

In all, 21 different organic molecules were found in gaseous form on the comet, lending credence to the theory that comets were instrumental in providing earth the materials it needed to spark the first simple organisms.

Scientists are so interested in studying comets because they are frozen remnants of the very beginning of our solar system. They haven’t changed much in the past few billion years, so they hold a lot of clues about what happened to our earth and our solar system. Through Comet Lovejoy and other similar ones hitting earth about 4 billion years ago, they may have planted the first “seeds” of life.

Stefanie Milam, a co-author on the paper, wrote:

“The result definitely promotes the idea the comets carry very complex chemistry. During the Late Heavy Bombardment about 3.8 billion years ago, when many comets and asteroids were blasting into Earth and we were getting our first oceans, life didn’t have to start with just simple molecules like water, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen. Instead, life had something that was much more sophisticated on a molecular level. We’re finding molecules with multiple carbon atoms. So now you can see where sugars start forming, as well as more complex organics such as amino acids—the building blocks of proteins—or nucleobases, the building blocks of DNA. These can start forming much easier than beginning with molecules with only two or three atoms.”

Turns out drunk comets partying in space may have created a whole lot on life on earth.

About The Author
Lisa Lo Paro
Lisa is a freelance writer and bibliophile living on the outskirts of New York City. She likes 2 a.m. with a good book, takes cream in her coffee and heavily filters her photos. Check out her blog The Most Happy, her Instagram, and Twitter.