A serendipitous detection of the organic molecule methanol around an intriguing moon of Saturn suggests that material spewed from Enceladus undertakes a complex chemical journey once vented into space. This is the first time that a molecule from Enceladus has been detected with a ground-based telescope.
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.
ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft has made the first in situ detection of oxygen molecules outgassing from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a surprising observation that suggests they were incorporated into the comet during its formation. This may have implications for our understanding of the chemistry involved in the formation of the solar system some 4.6 billion years ago.