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A Sweet Thanksgiving for Our Galaxy

Sugar. A variant on the sweetest ingredient in many a sumptuous holiday feast, glycolaldehyde has now been found in a star-forming region of space far from the galactic center called G31.41+0.31, about 26,00 light years away from Earth. Directly linked to the origin of life, glycolaldehyde is an advantageous find for researchers seeking out habitable planets. A team of international researchers used the powerful IRAM radio telescope in France to observe G31.41+0.31 with high angular resolution and at different wavelengths. This allowed the researchers to view astronomical objects with extreme sharpness and fine detail. Several observations confirmed the presence of glycolaldehyde at the core of the region. The simplest of monosaccharide sugars, glycolaldehyde (the prefix "glyco" indicates the presence of a sugar on a non-carbohydrate substance) can react with the substance propenal to form ribose, the backbone of ribonucleic acid (RNA). Although deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is more of a celebrity these days in our gene-obsessed culture, most scientists believe that RNA molecules were central components of the earliest cells. So enjoy an extra-sweet thanksgiving, the rest of the galaxy is!


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