Field of Science

Orion brandy anyone?

I'll admit to being a Trekkie at some time in my life, but Dr. McCoy's stash of Saurian brandy aside, there is alcohol in interstellar space. More than 120 molecules and ions -- including ethanol -- have been identified by radioastronomers in interstellar space. The transitions between different molecular rotational states give rise to very specific lines, which can be used as molecular fingerprints.

The lines which helped identify ethanol are rotations around the carbon-carbon single bonds, rather like little propellers turning. The lines arise from vicinity of the Orion Nebula (a mere 1500 light years away), which can be seen just under Orion's belt.

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