NASA scientists in France have made a discovery that suddenly makes space travel a whole lot more appealing. As a comet named Lovejoy makes its way around its elliptical orbit of the solar system, it seems to be throwing itself a bit of a party. In a newly published report, NASA’s international team have revealed that the comet is spewing out huge volumes of ethyl alcohol and glycolaldehyde – essentially booze and sugar, a truly cosmic cocktail!
According to Nicolas Biver of France’s Paris Observatory: “We found that comet Lovejoy was releasing as much alcohol as in at least 500 bottles of wine every second during its peak activity." According to our calculations, that’s more than 535 bottles of gin – more than enough for even the thirstiest Craft Gin Clubber.
In case you were wondering, comet Lovejoy is no relation to the lovable rogue antiques dealer who once graced British TV screens, but was in fact named after Terry Lovejoy, an Australian amateur astronomer who discovered the celestial body in 2014.
Officially catalogued as the somewhat less romantic C/2014 Q2, the comet is one of the brightest and most active to pass close to Earth since Hale-Bopp flew past in 1997. It delighted stargazers the world over when its greenish hue appeared bright in the skies during January 2014 and 2015.
It was when Lovejoy passed closest to the sun on 30th January 2015 that the Paris astronomers were able to observe the matter in the comet’s glowing halo, identifying a total of 21 different complex organic molecules – including the alcohol and sugar, neither of which had ever been identified in a comet before.
Carbon-containing compounds such as those found in Lovejoy form the basic building blocks of life, and some scientists believe that life on Earth may have sprung from molecules contained in comets that crashed into our planet’s surface billions of years ago.
For Lovejoy, the party continues somewhere in a galaxy far, far away. After its brief, boozy foray into our skies, it’s now faded again from Earthly view – and having last visited the solar system 11,500 years ago, isn't expected to return for another 8,000.