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More space sugar

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11:45am, October 5, 2004

How sweet it is! Four years ago, astronomers reported that they had for the first time detected sugar in space (SN: 6/24/00, p. 405: Available to subscribers at Sugarcoated news arrives from space). The same team has now found a second source of the simple sugar glycoaldehyde, in a dust-and-gas cloud 26,000 light-years from Earth. Glycoaldehyde can combine with other sugars to form ribose, the backbone of DNA and RNA.

In 2000, the researchers detected the molecule in a region of the star-forming cloud Sagittarius B2 that has a temperature of about 50 kelvins. In the Sept. 20 Astrophysical Journal Letters, the astronomers report finding glycoaldehyde in a region of the cloud with a temperature of just 8 kelvins.

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