Sugar found in space around a Sun-like star

A team of astronomers have spotted sugar molecules in the gas surrounding a young Sun-like star.

Written by Agencies | London | Published: August 29, 2012 8:22:54 pm

A team of astronomers have spotted sugar molecules in the gas surrounding a young Sun-like star.

Researchers led by Niels Bohr Institute,Denmark using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) found sugar in space around such a star for the first time.

The astronomers found molecules of glycolaldehyde – a simple form of sugar in the gas surrounding a young binary star,with similar mass to the Sun,called IRAS 16293-2422.

IRAS 16293-2422 is located around 400 light-years away,comparatively close to Earth.

“In the disc of gas and dust surrounding this newly formed star,we found glycolaldehyde,which is a simple form of sugar,not much different to the sugar we put in coffee,” Jes Jorgensen ,the lead author of the paper,said.

“This molecule is one of the ingredients in the formation of RNA,which – like DNA,to which it is related – is one of the building blocks of life,” Jorgensen said in a statement.

Glycolaldehyde has been seen in interstellar space before,but this is the first time it has been found so near to a Sun-like star,at distances comparable to the distance of Uranus from the Sun in the Solar System.

This discovery shows that some of the chemical compounds needed for life existed in this system at the time of planet formation.

“What it is really exciting about our findings is that the ALMA observations reveal that the sugar molecules are falling in towards one of the stars of the system,” team member Cecile Favre from Aarhus University in Denmark,said.

“The sugar molecules are not only in the right place to find their way onto a planet,but they are also going in the right direction,” Favre said.

The study will be published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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