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Sugar Molecules in Gas Surrounding Young Sun-like Star
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Sugar Molecules in Gas Surrounding Young, Sun-like Star

November 16, 2012
A team of astronomers has found molecules of glycolaldehyde--a simple form of sugar--in the gas surrounding a young binary star called IRAS 16293-2422, with similar mass to the sun. This is the first time sugar has been found in space around such a star. The discovery shows that the building blocks of life are in the right place at the right time for inclusion in planets forming around the star. The astronomers used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to detect the molecules. This images shows the Rho Ophiuchi star-forming region in infrared light, as seen by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Explorer (WISE). IRAS 16293-2422 is the red object in the center of the small square. The inset image is an artist's impression of glycolaldehyde molecules and shows glycolaldehyde's molecular structure (C2H4O2). Carbon atoms are gray, oxygen atoms are red and hydrogen atoms are white. In the main infrared image, blue and cyan represent light emitted at wavelengths of 3.4 and 4.6 micrometers, which is predominantly from stars. Green and red represent light from 12 and 22 micrometers, respectively, which is mostly emitted by dust. ALMA is an international astronomy facility that is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. It is funded in part by the National Science Foundation. To learn more, visit the ALMA website. (Date of Image: unknown) Credit: ESO/L. Calçada and NASA/JPL-Caltech/WISE Team


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