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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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Surprising discovery of molecular oxygen on comet 67P

29 October 2015 Astronomy Now

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.