In unexpected discovery, comet contains alcohol, sugar

October 23, 2015
Picture of the comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) on 12 February 2015. Image taken by French amateur astronomer Fabrice Noel, 50 kilometers south of Paris. (4 minute exposure, 6400 ISO, Sony A7s DSLR). Credit: Fabrice Noel, France

Comet Lovejoy lived up to its name by releasing large amounts of alcohol as well as a type of sugar into space, according to new observations by an international team. The discovery marks the first time ethyl alcohol, the same type in alcoholic beverages, has been observed in a comet. The finding adds to the evidence that comets could have been a source of the complex organic molecules necessary for the emergence of life.

"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 published Oct. 23 in Science Advances. The team found 21 different organic molecules in gas from the comet, including ethyl alcohol and glycolaldehyde, a simple sugar.

Comets are frozen remnants from the formation of our solar system. Scientists are interested in them because they are relatively pristine and therefore hold clues to how the solar system was made. Most orbit in frigid zones far from the sun. However, occasionally, a gravitational disturbance sends a comet closer to the sun, where it heats up and releases gases, allowing scientists to determine its composition.

Comet Lovejoy (formally cataloged as C/2014 Q2) was one of the brightest and most active comets since comet Hale-Bopp in 1997. Lovejoy passed closest to the sun on January 30, 2015, when it was releasing water at the rate of 20 tons per second. The team observed the atmosphere of the comet around this time when it was brightest and most active. They observed a microwave glow from the comet using the 30-meter (almost 100-foot) diameter radio telescope at Pico Veleta in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Spain.

The IRAM 30m radiotelescope in the Sierra Nevada, Spain. Credit: IRAM-30m radiotelescope by Nicolas Biver

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. The advanced equipment was capable of analyzing a wide range of frequencies simultaneously, allowing the team to determine the types and amounts of many different molecules in the comet despite a short observation period.

Some researchers think that comet impacts on ancient Earth delivered a supply of organic molecules that could have assisted the origin of life. Discovery of complex organic molecules in Lovejoy and other comets gives support to this hypothesis.

"The result definitely promotes the idea the comets carry very complex chemistry," said Stefanie Milam of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, a co-author on the paper. "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."

In July, the European Space Agency reported that the Philae lander from its Rosetta spacecraft in orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov­-Gerasimenko detected 16 organic compounds as it descended toward and then bounced across the comet's surface. According to the agency, some of the compounds detected play key roles in the creation of amino acids, nucleobases, and sugars from simpler "building-block" molecules.

Astronomers think comets preserve material from the ancient cloud of gas and dust that formed the solar system. Exploding stars (supernovae) and the winds from red giant stars near the end of their lives produce vast clouds of gas and dust. Solar systems are born when shock waves from stellar winds and other nearby supernovae compress and concentrate a cloud of ejected stellar material until dense clumps of that cloud begin to collapse under their own gravity, forming a new generation of stars and planets.

These clouds contain countless dust grains. Carbon dioxide, water, and other gases form a layer of frost on the surface of these grains, just as frost forms on car windows during cold, humid nights. Radiation in space powers chemical reactions in this frost layer to produce complex organic molecules. The icy grains become incorporated into comets and asteroids, some of which impact young planets like ancient Earth, delivering the organic molecules contained within them.

"The next step is to see if the organic material being found in comets came from the primordial cloud that formed the solar system or if it was created later on, inside the protoplanetary disk that surrounded the young sun," said Dominique Bockelée-Morvan from Paris Observatory, a co-author of the paper.

Explore further: What Philae did in its 60 hours on Comet 67P

More information: "Ethyl alcohol and sugar in comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy)," by N. Biver et al. advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/9/e1500863

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47 comments

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my2cts
3.7 / 5 (21) Oct 23, 2015
What a discovery.
Champagne on a comet !
cantdrive85
1.7 / 5 (24) Oct 23, 2015
Since comets contain some of the oldest and most primitive material in the solar system, scientists regard them as time capsules, offering a peek and how it all started 4.6 billion years ago.


Or, comets have been excavated from planets and that is why these "building blocks" are there. The claim of them being the "most primitive material in the solar system" is pure speculation. Hence, how scientists regard them is likely complete bollocks.
Doug_Huffman
3.5 / 5 (8) Oct 23, 2015
Or, comets have been excavated from planets and that is why these "building blocks" are there.
Which comet please? The most familiar one has about the density of cigarette ash.

Comet beggars "building blocks."
verkle
Oct 23, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
docile
Oct 23, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
antigoracle
2.3 / 5 (9) Oct 23, 2015
Hmm... I'm thinking, space pirate's stash.
NeutronicallyRepulsive
3 / 5 (4) Oct 23, 2015
Comet you drunk, go home.
Bongstar420
3 / 5 (2) Oct 23, 2015
http://www.ncbi.n...12670174

How do we know the comet hasn't just been fermenting for a while?
bohemianexile
1.7 / 5 (7) Oct 23, 2015
I think it is a lot more likely that these things are being actively created via electrochemistry than being remnants. My question is can we do something similar in a lab? Could we take a lump of material and subject it to the kind of energy that effects comets as they pass by the sun and see what happens? Why not? Putting everything off into some unseen and unknowable time in the past is bad science. We need new experiments and new missions much more than old ideas.
Stefanbanev
3.4 / 5 (7) Oct 23, 2015
>"Talking about comets bringing life to earth is pure hogwash"

Sure, it must be so if you say so...
However, having such chemical soup across a very wide range of conditions from deep freeze to high temp; from very low radiation or extreme radiation and many "cracks" in comet body from surface down to core to keep intermediate "results" during many billions years around of billions stars; it is not a surprise that Earth record indicates that life started almost instantly simply because space is teemed with life. What is unscientific about such apparent possibility; in fact it would be a way more astonishing if indeed life has been cooked almost instantly on planetary body and refused to be cooked when conditions are a way more diverse and almost not limited by number of repetitions in billions very confined volumes with plenty different niches in comets body where emerged life may continue to evolve and adapt...

jonesdave
4 / 5 (12) Oct 23, 2015
I think it is a lot more likely that these things are being actively created via electrochemistry than being remnants. My question is can we do something similar in a lab? Could we take a lump of material and subject it to the kind of energy that effects comets as they pass by the sun and see what happens? Why not? Putting everything off into some unseen and unknowable time in the past is bad science. We need new experiments and new missions much more than old ideas.


Rubbish. You need a liquid medium for electrochemistry, or you need one of the solid electrolytes that have been developed. None of these are found on a comet.
jonesdave
4.1 / 5 (14) Oct 23, 2015
Or, comets have been excavated from planets and that is why these "building blocks" are there. The claim of them being the "most primitive material in the solar system" is pure speculation. Hence, how scientists regard them is likely complete bollocks.


Lol. More brilliant science from the EU cranks. Perhaps you could tell me where I can take my bucket and spade and dig up some of this ethyl alcohol? Would come in very handy! I can see a few minor problems ensuing though, given that it melts at -114 C, and boils at 78 C at 1 atmosphere.
Still, must have been blasted off a planet, eh?
marko
4.2 / 5 (5) Oct 23, 2015
Terry Lovejoy is the astronomer who discovered this 'shooter' of a comet.

You will be pleased to know he is a non-drinker.

Drinks are on the house.
mauro48it
2.3 / 5 (8) Oct 24, 2015
Comets are a place where matter and energy are combined and run through all the limit states of the life, a laboratory where a mad chemist makes experiments randomly.
But let me a poetic license, comets maybe the sperm of space.
someone11235813
4.4 / 5 (7) Oct 24, 2015
Alcohol is not very complex maybe a bit more than formaldehyde. Still it's very exciting that we can do this sort of study especially as 19th century scientists could not envisage ever knowing anything about what stars were made of let alone comets.
my2cts
3.4 / 5 (15) Oct 24, 2015
No. Life is much, much more complicated than a few molecules. May a trillion time more complicated? No, much more than that.

Talking about comets bringing life to earth is pure hogwash. Very unscientific.


But if they reported a bible lying around on each comet you would immediately buy the story.
ThomasQuinn
3.7 / 5 (9) Oct 24, 2015
No. Life is much, much more complicated than a few molecules. May a trillion time more complicated? No, much more than that.

Talking about comets bringing life to earth is pure hogwash. Very unscientific.


But if they reported a bible lying around on each comet you would immediately buy the story.


Of course. That would be real science. Why? Because Christians nutters can redefine terms at will to spin any discussion in their benefit. It says so in the Bible. They won't tell you where, though - it also says in the Bible that they don't have to tell you, you see.
thingumbobesquire
3.5 / 5 (4) Oct 24, 2015
So I guess that Rabelais' bibulous hypothesis is vindicated after all.
JVK
1.5 / 5 (15) Oct 24, 2015
Re: Compare also this recent study http://phys.org/n...uch.html

Yes, Yes, Yes! The comparison must be made in the context of an atoms to ecosystems model of information storage in DNA that extends across all living genera. See: "Harvard cracks DNA storage, crams 700 terabytes of data into a single gram" http://www.extrem...gle-gram

Excerpt" "...treats DNA as just another digital storage device. Instead of binary data being encoded as magnetic regions on a hard drive platter, strands of DNA that store 96 bits are synthesized, with each of the bases (TGAC) representing a binary value (T and G = 1, A and C = 0).

To read the data stored in DNA, you simply sequence it — just as if you were sequencing the human genome — and convert each of the TGAC bases back into binary."

In the context of physics, that sounds simple, doesn't it?
JVK
1.5 / 5 (15) Oct 24, 2015
Re: In the context of physics, that sounds simple, doesn't it?

If you compare the simple-minded representation of what must be linked from chemistry to biology via the conserved molecular mechanisms of biologically-based cause and effect, you find that theoretical physics becomes more bizarre at every level of examination.

The theories cannot be linked to anything known about atoms to ecosystems models, which means the theories are irrelevant and cannot be compared to any aspect of the de novo creation of nucleic acids or the creation of anything else that could be used in a definition of life.

See: Life is physics and chemistry and communication http://dx.doi.org...as.12570

Watch for the next comet that links physics, chemistry, and the communication of information across all living genera to all life on this planet "...by releasing large amounts of alcohol as well as a type of sugar into space.."
JVK
1.5 / 5 (15) Oct 24, 2015
Alcohol is not very complex maybe a bit more than formaldehyde.


It's production by organisms on Earth is linked from atoms to ecosystems at 3.6-angstrom resolution.

See: Structure of a yeast spliceosome at 3.6-angstrom resolution http://www.scienc...abstract

The "Structural basis of pre-mRNA splicing" links the 3.6-angstrom resolution to the conserved molecular mechanisms of RNA-mediated cell type differentiation in all living genera via this model of the pheromone-controlled physiology of reproduction in species from microbes to humans.

From Fertilization to Adult Sexual Behavior http://www.hawaii...ion.html See our section on molecular epigenetics. "Small intranuclear proteins also participate in generating alternative splicing techniques of pre-mRNA and, by this mechanism, contribute to sexual differentiation in at least two species..."
JVK
1.5 / 5 (15) Oct 24, 2015
"Structure of a yeast spliceosome at 3.6-angstrom resolution" http://www.scienc...abstract

"Structural basis of pre-mRNA splicing" http://www.scienc...abstract

and the molecular epigenetics section of our 1996 Hormones and Behavior review link the detailed representations of sex differences in cell types to all RNA-mediated differences in all cell types of all individuals of all species.

From Fertilization to Adult Sexual Behavior http://www.hawaii...ion.html

See also: Structural diversity of supercoiled DNA http://dx.doi.org...omms9440 and the parody that makes all theorists appear to be the biologically uninformed science idiots that they obviously are: https://www.youtu...youtu.be All About that Base (Meghan Trainor Parody)

Excerpt: ",,,every angstom is dynamic from the 5 prime to the three..."
EnsignFlandry
4.1 / 5 (13) Oct 24, 2015
No. Life is much, much more complicated than a few molecules. May a trillion time more complicated? No, much more than that.

Talking about comets bringing life to earth is pure hogwash. Very unscientific.



No its not. It is a hypothesis which has been shown to be reasonable, not verified, by the transport of material from one body to another through space, and by the ability of microbiota to survive in harsh conditions including space. Combine these two *facts*, and you have a reasonable but unconfirmed hypothesis. That is science.
my2cts
3.1 / 5 (15) Oct 24, 2015
You nailed it Flandry. THAT will convince him.
He will rise from the darkness of delusion to the light of science.
If only he would listen.
SuperThunder
1.8 / 5 (9) Oct 24, 2015
Nice try aliens, but we're not that gullible. Next time send a comet that also releases gambling.
Solon
1.5 / 5 (17) Oct 24, 2015
"Comets are frozen remnants from the formation of our solar system."

So they keep telling us, even though the evidence does not support the theory.
my2cts
3.9 / 5 (14) Oct 24, 2015
@Solon
What evidence?
JVK
Oct 24, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Returners
1.4 / 5 (11) Oct 24, 2015
No its not. It is a hypothesis which has been shown to be reasonable, not verified, by the transport of material from one body to another through space, and by the ability of microbiota to survive in harsh conditions including space. Combine these two *facts*, and you have a reasonable but unconfirmed hypothesis. That is science.


That isn't even a fact, moron.

They transported some bacteria inside a capsule and then put it in vacuum for a little while and it survived in the environment of LEO (with 1365w/m^2 solar constant).

That in no way supports the notion of some microbe to survive at temperatures asymptotically approaching the 8 kelvin CMB for millions of years adrift in deep space needed to cross between stars at the speeds comets and asteroids or even planets move.
jonesdave
4.1 / 5 (13) Oct 24, 2015
"Comets are frozen remnants from the formation of our solar system."

So they keep telling us, even though the evidence does not support the theory.


Err, yes it does. Try doing a bit of research, instead of believing the scientifically illiterate cranks from where you no doubt get your strange ideas.
Have a look at the make up of interstellar clouds and protoplanetary disks. Have a look at the complex organic molecules detected therein. Then have another look at the COMs found at Lovejoy and many other comets. Then have a look at the surfaces of rocky planets. Compare and contrast.
JVK
1.5 / 5 (15) Oct 24, 2015
Common origins of RNA, protein and lipid precursors in a cyanosulfidic protometabolism
http://dx.doi.org...hem.2202

Reported as: http://news.scien...onundrum

What kind of biologically uninformed science idiot discards what is known about life on this planet and makes claims that it was seeded from deep space?

That was a rhetorical question.

See also: Single-residue insertion switches the quaternary structure and exciton states of cryptophyte light-harvesting proteins http://www.pnas.o...abstract
AGreatWhopper
3 / 5 (6) Oct 24, 2015
Aye, there's a comet that respects the English way of life. Rum, buggery and the lash will make an empire!
jljenkins
4 / 5 (16) Oct 24, 2015
@JVK I wish you could hear the melody in my head. "I'm a redneck with nuthin' to do, but troll science sites and leave my poo".
JVK
Oct 24, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
JVK
Oct 24, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
JVK
1.3 / 5 (13) Oct 24, 2015
See also: WEBINAR: The Hidden Effects of Epigenetic Discoveries

"New discoveries uncover that exposure to current environmental, dietary, behavioral, and medical conditions can significantly affect the future development and health of an individual and their offspring. Which correspondingly means, that the development and health of an individual is influenced by past experiences of that individual's parents.
Research shows, that enriching environments offer opportunities for improved sensory, motor, cognitive, and social stimulation. This improved stimulation has a multitude of positive effects, from increasing learning and memory, to reducing the possibility of acquiring depression or many brain disorders including Huntington's diseases, Alzheimer's and stroke. In this webinar we will talk about how current investigation in Epigenetics can affect patient treatment and impacts research in general."
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (9) Oct 24, 2015
.faceb...ediated/
PSEUDOSCIENCE AND PHISHING SITE
reported

the whole reason you link your personal sites is to:
1- PHISH for data and mine personal info of those who visit it
2- because you cannot actually find reputable peer reviewed journals who support your pseudoscience
3- reputable journals don't accept religious papers as legitimate science

quit posting pseudoscience
JVK
1.7 / 5 (12) Oct 24, 2015
How can anyone be so scared of what others might learn that they continue to post ridiculous accusations like that?
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (10) Oct 24, 2015
continue to post ridiculous accusations
@jk
it is NOT an accusation if it is TRUE
your personal sites, be they facebook or your rnamediated BS crap. might have "some" science in it,
HOWEVER, and this is the important part to remember:
if it also includes creationist dogma (like your sites do)
or if it also posts unsubstantiated conjectures (as your sites do)
and they portray this as being equivalent to science or the scientific method
then it is NOT SCIENCE... this is called PSEUDOSCIENCE

no one cares of you have a belief or religion
just quit portraying it as SCIENCE... it isn't

it isn't fear anyone has- this is a SCIENCE site, not a religious one, or a pseudoscience site
my2cts
3.6 / 5 (15) Oct 25, 2015
@JVK I wish you could hear the melody in my head. "I'm a redneck with nuthin' to do, but troll science sites and leave my poo".

Very well worded. Respect.
MalleusConspiratori
3.5 / 5 (8) Oct 25, 2015
James V Kohl is a pathological liar, an uneducated bigot and a trolling nuisance. In over 500 posts he has used the same 5-10 links. That's just spam. Unlike the other trolling spammers we know where he lives. You want to treat us with no respect, JVK, that's a two way street. Lot of legal things that can be done. Ever have someone spread dog food throughout your front yard just before it rains? You'll never get it up, and when the sun comes out you'll have more maggots and flies than a pig sty.

And then there's signing up for every spammy thing on the 'net with his credentials. These people have no respect. This is the only language they understand. JVK you disgust us, you don't frighten us. Well, with the exception of what I would do if I ever met you. That's scary because it's a complete waste, but, I'm duty bound kind of guy and you are a metastasis that needs to be excised from the body civil.
jim_xanara
1 / 5 (5) Oct 25, 2015
JVK gives anti-semites a bad name.
SuperThunder
1.8 / 5 (4) Oct 25, 2015
In unexpected discovery, comments contains alcohol, sugar.
Hyperfuzzy
1 / 5 (3) Oct 25, 2015
Would it be more likely an object supporting plant life has some sort of redirection into orbit about the sun. The molecules outside of the sun's influence would keep these substances in a given state. I raise this in support of the quantity reported. In other words, if the earth overheated enough to release it's atmosphere and spiral about the sun, would it spiral outward due to the lose of mass? So are we seeing a similar end-game?
JVK
1.4 / 5 (9) Oct 25, 2015
JVK you disgust us, you don't frighten us. Well, with the exception of what I would do if I ever met you. That's scary because it's a complete waste, but, I'm duty bound kind of guy and you are a metastasis that needs to be excised from the body civil.


The fact that PO allows threats like these in addition to personal accusations clearly indicates how frightened theorists are willing to do or say anything but not examine the experimental evidence of biologically-based cause and effect linked in articles like these:

Combating Evolution to Fight Disease http://www.scienc...88.short
An enhanced view of gene control http://www.scienc...07.short
Video: Altering the human genome in 3D http://news.scien...enome-3d

jonesdave
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 26, 2015
Would it be more likely an object supporting plant life has some sort of redirection into orbit about the sun. The molecules outside of the sun's influence would keep these substances in a given state. I raise this in support of the quantity reported. In other words, if the earth overheated enough to release it's atmosphere and spiral about the sun, would it spiral outward due to the lose of mass? So are we seeing a similar end-game?


Err..........no. All 21 of the COMs found on Lovejoy are also found in star forming molecular clouds. A decent proportion have also been found in protostellar disks. They were no doubt included when the comet actually formed.
bschott
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 26, 2015
This finding represents a bridge between two points in solar system formation theory. The masers which Herbig-Haro objects produce are composed of very similar chemical elements to those found in comets. Alcohol and water are the first things ejected by these objects.

Also Malleus just flat out implied he will kill JVK if he ever runs into him....is their a moderator in the house? That's actually a chargeable offence.

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