Sweet Building Blocks of Life Found Around Young Star
Life is made up of a series of complex organic molecules, including sugars. A team of astronomers led by researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute, have now observed a simple sugar molecule in the gas surrounding a young star and this discovery proves that the building blocks of life were already present during planet formation. The results have been published in the scientific journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Infrared image of the Rho Ophiuchi star forming region observed by NASA’s WISE satellite. The cloud in this image measures 14 light years across. The astronomers used ALMA to observe a very young star located in the left part of image (yellow box). The ALMA observations resolve details at a scale of 0.0005 light years corresponding to the orbit of Uranus in our own solar system. The observed glycolaldehyde emission is present on those scales around the young star. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA)
The star was observed with the new large international telescope, Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) in northern Chile. The ALMA telescopes are able to zoom in and study the details of newly formed stars and their rotating discs of dust and gas, which subsequently clumps together and forms planets. Among other things, the astronomers would like to investigate the gas for the presence of water vapour and examine the chemical composition for complex molecules.
Sugar around new stars
“In the protoplanetary disc of gas and dust surrounding the young, newly formed star, we found glycolaldehyde molecules, which are a simple form of sugar. It is one of the building blocks in the process that leads to the formation of RNA and the first step in the direction of biology,” explains astrophysicist Jes Jørgensen, Associate Professor at the Niels Bohr Institute and the Centre for Star and Planet Formation at the University of Copenhagen.