Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Coming Spring Semester 2030: FSN-832 Food Chemistry in Space


A team of European and American astronomers have spotted the simple sugar glycolaldehyde in a gas cloud surrounding a Sun-like star 400 light years from Earth.

While the diose has been found in space before, this is the first time it has been found near a star so similar to the sun. This discovery shows that the chemical compounds needed for life could have existed in our solar system at the time of planet formation.

Glycolaldehyde is an intermediate in the formose reaction, a pathway involved in the formation of sugars such as ribose from formaldehyde. Ribose is one of the components of RNA, a precursor to DNA.

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

Details of the discovery at the European Southern Observatory in Chile will be published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters. (source)