Sweet! Astronomers spot sugar molecule near star

BERLIN — Astronomers say that, for the first time, they have discovered one of the ingredients of life — sugar — in a gas cloud surrounding a young star.

The team of European and American astronomers says it spotted a simple sugar molecule called glycolaldehyde near a 10,000-year-old star similar to the sun.

Glycolaldehyde is needed to form ribonucleic acid, or RNA, which is similar in function to DNA.

Jes Jorgensen of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, said Wednesday that the glycolaldehyde was likely formed by radiation from the star hitting even simpler molecules floating through space.

The star, called IRAS 16293-2422, is about 400 light years from Earth.

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

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