Last updated on April 21, 2014 at 9:29 EDT

Artist’s Impression of Glycolaldehyde Molecules

August 29, 2012

A team of astronomers has found molecules of glycolaldehyde — a simple form of sugar — in the gas surrounding a young binary star, with similar mass to the Sun, called IRAS 16293-2422. This is the first time sugar been found in space around such a star, and the discovery shows that the building blocks of life are in the right place, at the right time, to be included in planets forming around the star. The astronomers used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to detect the molecules.

This video shows an artist’s impression of glycolaldehyde molecules, showing glycolaldehyde’s molecular structure (C2H4O2). Carbon atoms are shown as grey, oxygen atoms as red, and hydrogen atoms as white.