A Caltech Library Service

Ethyl alcohol and sugar in comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy)

Biver, Nicolas and Bockelée-Morvan, Dominique and Moreno, Raphaël and Crovisier, Jacques and Colom, Pierre and Lis, Dariusz C. and Sandqvist, Aage and Boissier, Jérémie and Despois, Didier and Milam, Stefanie N. (2015) Ethyl alcohol and sugar in comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy). Science Advances, 1 (9). Art. No. e1500863. ISSN 2375-2548. PMCID PMC4646833.

[img] PDF - Published Version
Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


The presence of numerous complex organic molecules (COMs; defined as those containing six or more atoms) around protostars shows that star formation is accompanied by an increase of molecular complexity. These COMs may be part of the material from which planetesimals and, ultimately, planets formed. Comets represent some of the oldest and most primitive material in the solar system, including ices, and are thus our best window into the volatile composition of the solar protoplanetary disk. Molecules identified to be present in cometary ices include water, simple hydrocarbons, oxygen, sulfur, and nitrogen-bearing species, as well as a few COMs, such as ethylene glycol and glycine. We report the detection of 21 molecules in comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy), including the first identification of ethyl alcohol (ethanol, C_2H_5OH) and the simplest monosaccharide sugar glycolaldehyde (CH_2OHCHO) in a comet. The abundances of ethanol and glycolaldehyde, respectively 5 and 0.8% relative to methanol (0.12 and 0.02% relative to water), are somewhat higher than the values measured in solar-type protostars. Overall, the high abundance of COMs in cometary ices supports the formation through grain-surface reactions in the solar system protoplanetary disk.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Lis, Dariusz C.0000-0002-0500-4700
Additional Information:© 2015 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License 4.0 (CC BY-NC). Submitted 29 June 2015; Accepted 7 August 2015; Published 23 October 2015. The observations were conducted under the target of opportunity proposal D04-14 and regular proposal 128-14. We acknowledge the support from the IRAM director for awarding us discretionary time, and the IRAM staff for its support and for scheduling the observations on short notice. Funding: IRAM is supported by INSU/CNRS (France), MPG (Germany), and IGN (Spain). S.N.M. is supported for this work through the NASA Planetary Astronomy Program. Author contributions: N.B. coordinated the observation program. N.B. and R.M. conducted the IRAM observations. J.C. and A.S. were responsible for the Nançay and Odin comet observations, respectively. P.C. reduced the Nançay OH observations. N.B. carried out the data reduction and modeling of the IRAM and Odin data. D.B.-M. provided the comparative study on complex organics in comet and protostars and other galactic sources of interest. All authors contributed to the observation planning and commented on the manuscript. Competing interests: The authors declare that they have no competing interests. Data and materials availability: The spectral data set is available at the CDS via anonymous ftp to (
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Institut national des sciences de l'Univers (INSU)UNSPECIFIED
Instituto Geográfico Nacional (IGN)UNSPECIFIED
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)UNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:space science, astronomy, comets, complex organic molecules
Issue or Number:9
PubMed Central ID:PMC4646833
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20151222-083209687
Persistent URL:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:63122
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:22 Dec 2015 17:05
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 09:25

Repository Staff Only: item control page