Sugars in Space.
Glycolaldehyde has been found in gas and dust near the centre of Milky Way galaxy around a solar-type protostar, 400 years light-years from the Ophiuchus constellation, in a place much closer to a star than the 26 000 light-years reported previously. Glycolaldehyde along with its reduced alcohol variant (ethylene glycol) have been identified from the energy it emits as it changes its rotational energy levels by absorbing and emitting in the millimetre wavelength.
Glycolaldehyde is the smallest possible molecule that contains both an aldehyde and a hydroxyl group. This simplest sugar being part of ribose and glucose is therefore an important intermediate in the path toward forming more complex biologically relevant molecules.
The major discussion concerning the origin of the complex organic molecules in space is whether these form from second-generation gas-phase reactions based on protonated CH3-OH, or due to the first generation reactions in the icy grain mantles, possibly induced by UV- or cosmic-ray irradiation.
These data illustrate the enormous potential of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) among which its ability to reveal many more complex organic molecules in young solar-system analogues.