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Sweet! Sugars found in meteorites for the first time

9 Dec 2019, 14:00 UTC
Sweet! Sugars found in meteorites for the first time
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If you had to list the very basic elemental ingredients for life on Earth, you'd have to include carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen (collectively called CHON) as your main ones, plus a smattering of others like phosphorous, sodium, and iron. If you took a step up in complexity and included molecules, then you'd also want things like amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), nucleobases (the building blocks of nucleic acids like RNA and DNA), and sugars.

A lot of these chemicals are pretty simple, and form easily in the right conditions. Conditions on early Earth may have been conducive to construct them, but it may surprise you to find out things were pretty good in space, too. The very first solid bits of material to form in the disk of gas and dust swirling around the proto-Sun 4.6 billion years ago were rich in carbon and those other ingredients, even the complex ones.

And many of them have actually been found in meteorites! Amino acids, nucleobases, and other relatively complex molecules have been found in rocks that fell from space, ones that had been orbiting the Sun for tall those eons since they formed. Weirdly, though, one of the ...

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