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Jacques Crovisier (Paris Observatory) and his team report the discovery of ethylene glycol in archived radio spectra of Comet Hale-Bopp (C/1995 O1). The ten-atom molecule, HOCH2CH2OH, which is used as antifreeze in cooling fluids for automobiles, "is the most complex chemical species ever identified in a comet by means of spectroscopy," say the scientists. Hale-Bopp, an unusually active comet, produced 1031 water molecules — enough to fill a couple of Olympic-size swimming pools — each second when it passed through perihelion in early April 1997. In terms of the relative number of molecules formed, Hale-Bopp produced 0.25 percent as much ethylene glycol as it did water.
So what's antifreeze doing in a comet? Ethylene glycol is the chemically reduced form of the simplest sugar (glycolaldehyde) and has been found in interstellar clouds (such as Sagittarius B2) and meteorites (like the Murchison and Murray carbonaceous chondrites). Its discovery in Comet Hale-Bopp "makes it even more compelling that volatile cometary matter retains a significant interstellar signature," the team writes, saying that it strengthens the connection between cometary and interstellar material. Their work appeared in the March 18, 2004, issue of Astronomy & Astrophysics.
Originally posted by senshido
Where do you think all that anti-freeze those cult members drank went ;-)