The Truth Behind The Giant Cloud Of Alcohol In Space

Much of outer space is still a mystery to us, incomprehensibly big and filled with billions of stars and galaxies trillions of miles away. While astronomers have studied the stars, asteroids, planets, and nebulae that are littered around the universe to some extent, the final frontier is always ready to throw a surprise or two our way, including massive space clouds made up of pure alcohol.

According to Phys, a region known as W3(OH) is a cloud only 6,500 light-years away, practically a next-door neighbor to Earth in the grand scheme of things, that is almost entirely made out of methyl alcohol. This isn't what's in your vodka cranberry, ethyl alcohol — some of that does exist in the cloud, but it's much rarer. Methyl alcohol isn't potable in any form, and has industrial uses on Earth in solvents and plastics. So why is there a giant cloud of it nearby, and why are there other giant clouds of booze throughout the known universe?

Some clouds could smell like rum

According to Mental Floss, another booze cloud 10,000 light-years away was discovered to have ethyl alcohol, enough to give every human on Earth 300,000 pints a day for the next billion years. It's not all drinkable, however, as some compounds like carbon monoxide and ammonia are floating around in the giant space cocktail. 

Though there are different types of alcohol molecules, they are relatively simple in construction and made from commonly available elements like hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen (via Phys). When stars begin to form from collapsing clouds of dust and gas, alcohol molecules can attach to the dust particles, heat up, and separate into gases. The expanding gas clouds attract and create more alcohol molecules through chemical reactions, leading to the massive boozy mists that can be wider than our entire solar system. Though you can't exactly grab a mug and head to one of these clouds, it would be tempting. One cloud contains the same chemical that gives raspberries their taste, and smells a lot like rum. Maybe an intergalactic bar crawl wouldn't be so bad after all.