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A cloud of alcohol in outer space

In outer space, there is a giant cloud of alcohol. It is located about 6,500 light-years away, in the region known as W3(OH).

A cloud of alcohol in outer space

Unfortunately, it is methyl alcohol (commonly known as wood alcohol, although it is not made of wood), and therefore it is not used for consumption. Also, there is a certain amount of ethyl alcohol (used for drinking), but it is not as common.

The presence of alcohol in space may seem strange, but a huge number of complex chemical reactions occur between the molecular clouds and dust in outer space, so there are all kinds of chemical compounds. Alcohol is a relatively simple molecule formed from sufficiently abundant elements (hydrogen, carbon, oxygen), so the existence of a large amount of alcohol in space should not be a surprise.

Due to the abundance of simple molecules, adding a small amount of energy to this mixture may lead to stimulated emission of light, called astrophysical maser. It occurs when the electron is in an excited state, and the molecule interacts with the photon. In this case, the electron can drop to a lower energy level, emitting photon with the same energy. This phenomenon is called stimulated emission.