Jul 6, 2011
Bleached in space – Great news for cosmic hairdressers. ESO has discovered hydrogen peroxide in space. If you look at the photo, there’s a little red ring, that’s the stuff right there. On Earth, hydrogen peroxide plays a key role in the chemistry of water and ozone in our planet’s atmosphere, but is familiar in solution form for its use as hair bleach and as a disinfectant. Oh, and in high school science labs when you add it to slices of liver to make them froth with enzymic activity.
Seriously though, detecting molecules of hydrogen peroxide in the space between the stars could offer clues about the chemical link between two molecules critical for life: water and oxygen. The discovery adds this important chemical to the growing list of small molecules, both inorganic and organic, that have been detected in space including carbon dioxide, water, methane and more complicated organics.