Formic acid (HCOOH) was initially detected in the interstellar medium in 1971 by
Zuckerman et al., with a second line reported by
Winnewisser and Churchwell.
It has been observed in comet Hale-Bopp
and has also been found in
meteorites. It has also been
in several hot star-forming regions.
UPDATE (July 2018): The trans isomer of formic acid has recently been detected in the protoplanetary disk
TW Hydrae by
Favre et al.
Formic acid is the smallest
carboxylic acid, which
carbonyl doubly-bonded oxygen (=O) and a hydroxyl group (-OH) on the same carbon atom. In solution, formic
acid may lose the OH proton to yield HCOO–, the formate ion.
The name of a family of ants, Formicidae,
reflects their use of formic acid in defense.
The insect-like aliens in Ender's Game are
sometimes known as Formics.