The ALMA (Atacama Large Millimetre Array) located in Chile is known to be one of the world’s largest base for astronomical researches. Holding about 66 radio telescopes, its role is to create a path for astronomers to examine the farthest and undiscovered regions of the cosmos, something it definitely attained in August 2012 as it played a major role in one of the weirdest – and possibly most crucial breakthroughs – of the past decade.
Sugar Floating In The Space
At this time, stargazers were reading a recently formed star, appealingly mentioned as IRAS 16293-2422, when they found the existence of sugar molecules in the warm gases surrounding the star. Further study revealed that they have found glycoaldehyde, kind of odorless sugar made up of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon.
The team behind the reason for this find considers that it was the constitution of IRAS 16293-2422 itself that led in the establishment of these molecules. New stars are in many cases formed when huge clouds of dust and gas collide with each other. The extreme cold that this action produces can produce atoms of gas to “freeze” onto drift dust particles; if many gases bond themselves to the same element they can fuse, yielding molecules like glycoaldehyde. Interestingly, it was these frozen dust materials that caused the discovery primarily.
Since the star formed, the temperature started to rise, evaporating the molecules again into gas. The ALMA then located and found out the mixture of this gas by studying the radiation that it discharged in the form of radio waves.
Although glycoaldehyde isn’t the similar kind of sugar that you add into your coffee (that is sucrose), don’t mean that this breakthrough isn’t significant: It reveals that glycoaldehyde is in fact one of the fundamental building blocks of life. As it mixes with many other molecules, the member of the sugar family called as “ribose” is produced. This is a fundamental element of the nucleic acids like RNA and – most significantly – DNA, which (naturally) we won’t be without.