Meet Lovejoy, a Comet That Packs a Prodigious Hangover

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Picture taken by ESA's space probe Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera and released on August 6, 2014 shows Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from distance of 285 km.Credit: AFP

Those looking for an extraterrestrial good time need look no further. The basic requirements for a party – alcohol and sugar – have been detected in large quantities on a comet appropriately named "Lovejoy."

The bad news is that Lovejoy won't be in the vicinity of earth for another 8,000 years or so. But when it last approached in January, scientists discovered that it contains C2H5OH and CH2OHCHO – otherwise known as alcohol and sugar, according to the Quartz website.

"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 comet researcher Nicolas Bivor of the Paris Observatory.

The findings of the research were published in the journal Science Advances on Friday.

Alcohol and sugar were the only two of 21 organic molecules found on Lovejoy that had not been previously recorded on a comet.

“Comets are the remnants of star and planet formation billions of years ago, when our solar system first came into existence," Bivor said. "As such, they’re clues to our history. "

Though much maligned, comets actually contain complex organic molecules. It’s theorized that when comets collided with Earth billions of years ago, they could have delivered those molecules to our planet.

“The result definitely promotes the idea the comets carry very complex chemistry,” said co-author Stefanie Milam, from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “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.”

Which sounds a little complex for those of us who just want a drink, but it's nice to know that there may be a party going on right now on Lovejoy.

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