Comet Expels 125 Bottles of Spirit Every Second

Picture of the comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) on 12 February 2015 from 50km south of Paris. Credits: Fabrice Noel

Picture of the comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) on 12 February 2015 from 50km south of Paris. Credits: Fabrice Noel

"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 Nicolas Biver, of Paris. If a scientist from Scotland or Kentucky had made this discovery, it would have been quoted in whisky. That’s probably about 125 bottles of spirit every second.

Finding organic molecules on comets is exciting for scientists because it supports the theory that comets carry the basic building-blocks of life. The alcohol found on Comet Lovejoy is a first. NASA says that Lovejoy is currently the most active comet in our solar system. Its atmosphere was observed on January 30th when it was closest to the Sun.

As exciting as this news is for science, there are obvious booze-related questions: What would this comet space spirit taste like? How would one collect ethyl alcohol spewing from a comet and bottle it? Would it be considered whisky if bottled at a high proof? If one were to bottle this alcohol, would one include glycolaldehyde, a simple sugar found on the comet.

There are some answers to these questions. Alcohol alone, without water, would give us a compound similar to vodka before it’s watered down. Saying that, the definition of vodka requires that it be a fermented and distilled product. Indeed, there would be no legal classification for this booze, but in the purest sense, it is a spirit. While it wouldn’t benefit from the flavour gained from oak maturation (like whisky), when combined with the simple sugars from the comet, it might be a flavoured vodka of sorts.

Regardless, retrieving this alcohol would definitely put a damper on Ardbeg and Suntory's attempts at aging whisky in space. Sadly, though, I predict that by 2045 Absolut will win this battle with "Comet Flavoured" vodka. They're already doing it with whisky-flavoured vodka.