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Scientists detect Ethyl Alcohol and Simple Sugar from gas emitted by Comet Lovejoy

Comet Lovejoy

For the first time, a team of scientists have discovered two complex organic molecules viz. Ethyl alcohol and a simple sugar known as glycolaldehyde on a comet. These molecules were discovered on Comet Lovejoy from gas emitted by a comet by scientists from NASA, the Paris Observatory and other organizations. Significance of this discovery: These two complex organic molecules are considered as building blocks of life. This discovery on a comet may shed light on the cosmic origins of earth i.e. provide important clues to the hypothesis that a falling comet collided with earth, leading to the origins of life.

The research was done using a 30-metre long telescope at the Institute de Radioastronomie Millimetrique locaed in Sierra Nevada in Spain. It was conducted in January 2015 when the Comet Lovejoy was closest to the Sun and was brightest and most productive. The scientists found that Comet Lovejoy was releasing as much alcohol as in five hundred bottles of wine every second during its peak activity. They also had detected 21 different organic molecules in gas released from the comet along with the ethyl alcohol and simple sugar.