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Detection of methanol shows comets are forming in distant solar system

16 June 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have found the organic molecule methyl alcohol, or methanol, in the protoplanetary disc of TW Hydrae, 175 light-years from Earth — the first such detection of this chemical compound in a young planet-forming disc. Since methanol forms on the icy coatings of dust grains, this discovery provides a window into the region where comets are likely forming.

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Happy Hour on Comet Lovejoy

24 October 2015 Astronomy Now

Comet Lovejoy lived up to its name by releasing as much ethyl alcohol as in at least 500 bottles of wine every second as well as a type of sugar into space during its peak activity, according to new observations by an international team. The finding adds to the evidence that comets could have been a source of the complex organic molecules necessary for the emergence of life.

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Comet impacts may have led to life on Earth — and perhaps elsewhere

19 August 2015 Astronomy Now

Comet impacts on Earth are synonymous with great extinctions, but now research presented at the Goldschmidt geochemistry conference in Prague shows that early comet collisions would have become a driving force to cause substantial synthesis of peptides — the first building blocks of life. This may have implications for the genesis of life on other worlds.