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Comet Lovejoy Giving Away Alcohol (eurekalert.org) 97

Thorfinn.au writes: 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.

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Comet Lovejoy Giving Away Alcohol

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  • by CaptQuark ( 2706165 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @02:21AM (#50796295)
    It's interesting that they are finding organic compounds on comets. It's not much more complex to get to amino acids which are the building blocks of life. Perhaps the earth was seeded with enough organic material to jump start simple life forms. We might all be from alien origin.

    • by plopez ( 54068 )

      My argument concerning space colonization not to colonize but to seed. Send problem with organic self replicating material, like prions, that then can evolve into life. If we ever want a genetic legacy outside of this solar system short of inventing warp drive, which is highly unlikely, our best bet is to seed the universe with organics based on Terran DNA by firing huge numbers of small capsules at "Goldilocks" planets.

      • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @08:31AM (#50796863)
        Simple organic compounds are all over space. There's no reason to toss a few more out there; if a planet is in a life-friendly zone it probably already has the basic building block needed for life.
      • If we ever want a genetic legacy outside of this solar system short of inventing warp drive, which is highly unlikely, our best bet is to seed the universe with organics based on Terran DNA by firing huge numbers of small capsules at "Goldilocks" planets.

        Do we? Our biology is adapted to one particular environment, and is far from perfect even there. Our relation to it is also becoming increasingly abstract; for example, communicating through this website effectively reduces people to a bunch of ideas.

        So, g

      • So in the end we become intragalactic porno producers...
        giving some poor unsuspecting planet a facial in the name of science.
        Never mind that things might already be developing there with no help needed...
        "No Honey, this is really good for your skin, I promise!"
        • by plopez ( 54068 )

          Nature is cruel. If we want some sort of legacy to survive we have to take that risk. Or we just die with our solar system. Those are our choices.

      • Prions don't self replicate.

        Regarding your idea of seeding: why would anyone do that?
        You only have costs and no return. On top of that it is ethical and morally highly questionable.

        You want to poison a goldilock planet with our stuff not caring what already is living there?

        I call that a WMD ... and sooner or later the retalliation probably kill what is living then on earth.

        • by plopez ( 54068 )

          How is it any less moral and ethical than colonization?

          • Colonization of what?

            Another island? Or another planet?

            I guess in modern times as we live in an "Age of Enlightenment" settlers would try to cooperate and live with what they find there.

            Bombing another planet with "viral" material to "seed" it and likely killing most highly evolved live is not "moral".

            On the other hand: we could argue how compatible live on different plants might be and if our seeding would really harm them or would even be able to take ground. (And vice versa)

        • by mikael ( 484 )

          Maybe it would be a smart-seeder that could take and analyze photographs of planets, perform multi-spectral imaging to determine the possible living conditions and presence of water, maybe even the lifetime of the star. If the conditions were right, seed pods would be released, otherwise the system would just carry on to the next solar system.

          Would you fire a load of dumb delivery systems that would be oblivious to obstacles like asteroids, meteorites, solar flares and comets. That didn't work out well for

    • by arglebargle_xiv ( 2212710 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @02:55AM (#50796347)

      '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,

      'On closer observation we found it to be ChÃteau Lafite Rothschild from somewhere between 1962 and 1978. The French government has authorised a French space mission to determine the vintage more closely, astronaut positions to be determined by national lottery', the scientist continued.

      • by donaldm ( 919619 )
        This is why the Galactic Police are so under manned, there are just too many of those annoying comets that go on alcoholic binges and forget Kepler's and Newton's laws. Wont someone think of those dwarf planets.
    • If we have a comet streaming these compounds out into space, there's pretty much not a whole lot of scenarios in which the basis building blocks of life aren't pretty common.

      If most of the water on Earth came from cometary bombardment, and comets are documented as having these materials ... then you really only can make the conclusion that some other pile of rock has gone through the same process.

      As much as people like to think we're special and magical, the reality is the initial steps of life are just ch

    • What I was thinking, is if there's sugar and alcohol present, does that mean there's a good possibility that there are (or were) colonies of microorganisms on this (and perhaps other) comets, that are turning the sugar into alcohol?
    • Given the amount of alcohol noted int the article I think the party started with a bang :)
  • Ha! Of course they measure it in bottles of wine. We Americans need that converted to bottles of Whiskey!

    Or malt liqueur, which ever you prefer.

    • We Americans need that converted to bottles of Whiskey!

      No you don't. You'd measure it in bottles of yellow-liquid-that's-not-quite-beer. We Canadians would convert it into bottles of beers, one of which is equal to ten bottles of your yellow liquid.

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        We have some good Whiskey. I don't drink any more but I miss it. I do like my Molson. They stopped having their festival and I don't think they get you hammered during tours any more. ;-) I'm a dual-citizen but I'm mostly an USian. I'm a citizen by grace of birth - Micmac.

  • Markus and I are going to help prepare a new MIV for launch to intercept this "Comet Lovejoy" and claim it's alcohol and sugar for use in the Cloud Ark. We will need to reuse and tow the reactor from ymir, along with a full compliment of robots to handle all of the slave labor needed to adjust the orbit of this hunk of ice towards the Sun-Earth L1 la grange point. From there we use the alcohol to power the boosters around Old Earth into a high orbit towards Izzy. We can correct for everything bad that happe

    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

      I'll be part of the crew, but I think my live will be wasted on the way back.

    • by Chas ( 5144 )

      What's the vintage? 5 billion BC? Hmm. Good year...

      • by donaldm ( 919619 )

        What's the vintage? 5 billion BC? Hmm. Good year...

        Five billion years? that is far too young. Now 13.8 billion years is an incredible vintage that is a must for for all discerning gods and goddesses. How to start a party with a bang.

      • It may be a good year, but just look at the terroir.

  • by bytesex ( 112972 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @02:45AM (#50796333) Homepage

    These measurements are made using a spectrograph, right? Then what is the difference between the comet spitting out carbon, hydrogen and oxygen in more-or-less the same relative quantities as found in alcohol, and pure, molecular alcohol? I mean, have they verified that it is alcohol and not acetone? How does one verify the (complex) molecular composition of something when you can only see its light?

    • by bytesex ( 112972 )

      Oh never mind. What a little Googling can do: infra-red and microwave spectrography.

    • Re:I'm curious (Score:5, Informative)

      by NixieBunny ( 859050 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @04:16AM (#50796459) Homepage
      I work on telescopes of the sort that were used to make these observations. In fact, I built the spectrometer that the cited author Stephanie Milam used to get her degrees in astronomy at Arizona. The spectrometer (these days) is a big FFT machine capable of resolving perhaps 1 GHz of bandwidth into 16,384 or so channels. The frequency received by the telescope is typically many GHz. The huge IRAM telescope works at lower frequencies than our smaller scopes in Arizona, which operate above 100 GHz. The spectral lines are first replicated in a vacuum chamber in a lab, to make sure that the spectral signature is thoroughly documented.
  • We found that comet Lovejoy was releasing as much alcohol as in at least 500 bottles of wine every second during its peak activity

    An angry person writes:

    So how much ethyl alcohol? Using standard dimensions as assumptions:

    500 bottles at 750ml: 375 litres
    375 litres of wine at 13% = 50 litres [*]

    Just say that next time, k? At what point in the reporting chain did this idiocy get introduced? It's ejecting around 50 litres of ethyl alcohol. Simple. Now go away.

    [*} adjusted ABV from 12 to 13% to get 50 litres - a more likely estimated figure

  • by bkmoore ( 1910118 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @04:16AM (#50796461)
    Does that mean it's on an irregular, erratic orbit, and should be pulled over and given a breathalyzer test before it endangers any inhabited planets?
  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @05:31AM (#50796551)
    The alcohol may be free, but the delivery charges are out of this world.
  • at 12% alcohol usually and a wine bottle being 75 cl, that's 45 Liters (11.88 gallons) of pure alcohol. Why this ridiculous comparison? How many beers is it?
  • Joy loving people don't 'give away' alcohol, the word you're looking for is 'throwing up'.

  • by MindPrison ( 864299 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @08:17AM (#50796839) Journal
    Never before has so many alcoholics wanted to be an astronaut as of this discovery.

    I could swear I saw Barney Gumble at Nasa's main entrance yesterday.
  • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @10:24AM (#50797185) Homepage

    Step 1: Send a probe to the comet.
    Step 2: Collect alcohol & bring it back to Earth.
    Step 3: Bottle the alcohol.
    Step 4: Sell it to rich folks who like getting drunk.
    Step 5: Profit (for NASA).

  • by SlovakWakko ( 1025878 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @02:43PM (#50798263)
    To me, this is all the necessary evidence of a secret Russian space program. I'd just like to know why they select such clumsy astronauts...
  • This is the first time I wish I could post a photo in comments: http://pre13.deviantart.net/eb... [deviantart.net]

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