Image: This artist’s impression of glycolaldehyde molecules shows their molecular structure (C2H4O2). Carbon atoms are shown as gray, oxygen atoms as red, and hydrogen atoms as white. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada
Sugar molecules have been found in the gas surrounding a young sun-like star, suggesting that some of the building blocks of life may actually be present even as alien planets are still forming in the system.
The young star, called IRAS 16293-2422, is part of a binary (or two-star) system. It has a similar mass to the sun and is located about 400 light-years away in the constellation of Ophiuchus. The sugar molecules, known as glycolaldehyde, have previously been detected in interstellar space, but according to the researchers, this is the first time they have been spotted so close to a sun-like star.
In fact, the molecules are about the same distance away from the star as the planet Uranus is from our sun.