Yes, the Milky Way is filled with trillions and more tons of toxic space grease. You didn’t see that coming? Oh, we didn’t either. But, it is fascinating and we need to tell you about it.
It is commonly known that dust, minerals, metals, ice, soot, radiation and assorted flotsam and jetsam from a billion explosions and collisions of stars and celestial bodies pepper outer space. But, grease? Yep. According to the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, made known to us by space.com, “an oily form of hydrogen-bound carbon called aliphatic carbon is all over the milky way.” That form of carbon is, apparently, ”leaked” into space by burning stars and one of the key ingredients in the creation of new stars and planets.
Astronomers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia made some of the grease in their lab. When they compared its make-up to what has been observed in the Milky Way, they concluded that there is likely “about 11 billion trillion trillion tons (or 11 with 33 zeros after it) of greasy carbon molecules in our galaxy — the equivalent of 40 trillion trillion trillion packs of butter.” That’s five times as much as previously estimated.
What does this mean? Well, carbon is a building block for life. And, researchers are excited by the abundance of it in the galaxy. Knowing how much of this, and other kinds of carbon are present could give clues to other life-sustaining solar systems in the Milky Way. For these astronomers, grease is the word.