Saturday, March 14, 2009

Diabetic space aliens on a sugar high!

Welll... not quite.

LONDON: A sugar molecule, linked to the origin of life on Earth, has been found in a distant region of the Milky Way, some 26,000 light years away.

What's more, the sugar was detected drifting through a massive star-forming region of the galaxy, which could be host to life-friendly planets.

"It is the first time glycolaldehyde, a basic sugar, has been detected towards a star forming region where planets that could potentially harbour life may exist," said Serena Viti, an astrophysicist at University College London, in England, and author of a study on the find to be published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Cold and sparse

Glycolaldehyde can react with propenal to form ribose, an important ingredient in RNA and DNA – the basic units of life. The molecule has been detected in deep space before, but only in regions too extreme to nurture life, such as the cold and sparse galactic centre, said Viti.

The researchers located the sugar in a star-forming region, dubbed G31.41+31, using the IRAM radio-telescope in Grenoble, France.

The molecule was detected in similar concentrations to other organic chemicals commonly found in space, raising the possibility that its presence could be more widespread than previously thought.

The region the experts scrutinised is rich in young stars that may be associated with planets, thereby increasing the chance that those planets have organic matter deemed to have been part of the cocktail that may have led to the genesis of life on the early Earth.

This scenario "is plausible," said Tom Millar, an astrophysicist at Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, who was not involved with the study. "These molecules will probably be found in [many] more places."


Anonymous said...

Of course we're so busy looking for life that resembles our own we miss the fact that it need not.

We are all cells in a larger consciousness anyhow; as you and I communicate like neurons across a synaptic cleft we can only imagine our independence from one another.

ellroon said...

All of us are stardust in the end.. and the beginning.

Anonymous said...

We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden.

Anonymous said...

Well look at that, it's 4:20.

ellroon said...

I had to go look up 420...