A new study suggests that when some ancient meteorites crash-land on Earth, they bring a dash of extraterrestrial sugar with them.
To be clear, this is not table sugar (sadly, scientists still have no insight into whether aliens prefer their coffee black or sweetened). Rather, in the powdered samples of two ancient, carbon-filled meteorites, astronomers have found traces of several sugars that are key to life — including ribose, the sugary base of RNA (ribonucleic acid).
According to lead study author Yoshihiro Furukawa, this is the first time that these bioessential sugars have been detected in meteorites. The find gives fresh fuel to the idea that the essential building blocks of life on Earth were forged in space, before crash-landing on our young planet billions of years ago, Furukawa said.
“Other important building blocks of life have been found in meteorites previously, including amino acids (components of proteins) and nucleobases (components of DNA and RNA), but sugars have been a missing piece,” Furukawa, an associate professor at Tohoku University in Japan, said in a statement.