There’s a joke that asks, “Where do astronauts go for a drink?” The answer is, “The space bar!” But in the distant future, you might ask that question literally. There really is alcohol in space, even if we can’t access it yet.
No, there isn’t a distillery on Jupiter. Nor are there seas of vodka on Mars. In fact, this alcohol isn’t on a planet at all, and it’s not even in liquid form. If you wanted to go cosmic bar-hopping, you’d have to begin in the dark gulfs between distant stars. Here, you’ll encounter something you’d never find at your favorite brewery: enormous clouds of gaseous alcohol.
Distilling is all about chemistry, and the creation of space alcohol is no different. A molecule of alcohol is a simple arrangement of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. And, like grapes in a vineyard, these atoms are abundant in our universe! Hydrogen comes from the Big Bang, while carbon and oxygen get made in many stars. Of course, the gas between distant stars is extremely cold and dispersed, so the atoms don’t often run into each other. But as carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen float through space, undisturbed by volatile stellar activity, they slowly stick together.
Sounds like an endless happy hour, right? Unfortunately, the clouds usually comprise methyl alcohol, which is poisonous. Ethanol, which you can ingest, is less common. And though the clouds are huge, they’re also incredibly spread out: you’d have to travel through—and then beyond—our galaxy, just to fill a wine glass.
Luckily, there are plenty of good drinks right here on Earth. Cheers!