Science News

Booze Space

Sun, 18th Nov 2001

Part of the show Medicine in the Tropics

If you're fond of wandering round in an alcoholic haze then outer space is a good place to be, according to BBC science online last week. There are billions of tonnes of alcohol floating around in a giant cloud near the centre of the galaxy. Astronomers have known for some time that this cloud contained ethanol - which is what goes into alcoholic drinks - and methanol - which methylated spirits are made from. But now they have evidence for a third type of alcohol called vinyl-ethanol, which has never been discovered in outer space before. Vinyl-ethanol is non-inebriating - in other words, it won't get you drunk. But it is a key player in many chemical reactions that are crucial to life on earth. So this discovery could shed light on how life might evolve in outer space. But if you fancy a drink you're probably better off going down to your local pub - the alcohol cloud is 26000 light years away from Earth - that's 100,000 million million miles!


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