Red world is rich in sugars similar to those found in human cells

Red world is rich in sugars similar to those found in human cells Red world is rich in sugars similar to those found in human cells

David Bowie might have asked whether there was life on Mars, but scientists now think that life may have started on a very different red world.

Experts in France and the US say a snowman-shaped space rock called Arrokoth, in the outskirts of our solar system beyond Pluto, is covered in sugars.

These include glucose and ribose – sugars that are 'fundamental building blocks' of RNA, the molecule found in cells of humans and most of Earth's lifeforms.

At 4 billion miles away from the sun, Arrokoth is 'too cold to support life as we know it', NASA says.

But the new findings suggest smaller comets could have transported sugar molecules required for the origin of life from Arrokoth to early Earth, about 4.5 billion years ago.

The team of experts, led by Dr Cornelia Meinert of CNRS-University Côte d'Azur in France, think methanol ices are transformed into sugars on Arrokoth by cosmic rays, giving it its red colour.

Arrokoth is not a planet but a 'planetesimal', meaning it is a very early remnant of the solar system left over from the formation of the planets.

It consists of two bodies, 13 and nine miles in diameter, that were likely orbiting each other before coming together billions of years ago.

Orbiting in the distant Kuiper Belt and 3.93 billion miles (6.33 billion km) from Earth, it is the most distant object ever visited by a spacecraft.

In 2019, the spacecraft New Horizons completed a flyby of Arrokoth revealing its unusual shape and staggeringly red hue.

But just why Arrokoth – which means 'sky' in the Native American Powhatan or Algonquian language – became so red has remained something of a mystery.

Arrokoth's surface is coated by a layer of frozen methanol, the kind of alcohol that makes humans go blind, as well as organic compounds responsible for its red colour.

One theory proposed that at very low temperatures, methanol might be converted into these red compounds under the radiation of 'galactic cosmic rays' – high-energy particles that bombard the solar system.

To test this theory, the researchers cooled samples of frozen methanol to -233 °C (40 Kelvin) with electrons to simulate 1.8 billion years of Arrokoth being exposed to galactic cosmic rays.

They not only discovered that this process produced a red colour extremely similar to that of Arrokoth, but that this also produced a 'complex suite' of 'biologically significant' sugars.

However, Dr Meinert told the MailOnline that this doesn't mean Arrokoth would have been transformed into a delicious treat.

Dr Meinert says: 'We detected glucose and galactose in those samples that are known to trigger the sweet taste.

'Given the low abundances of these individual sugars and especially other organic molecules in these ices that are considered to be toxic, I would definitely not lick such ices.'

Setting aside the gastronomical significance, this discovery could be vital for understanding how life could emerge in the solar system.

The sugars found on Arrokoth are the same simple organic compounds that make up RNA, a molecule similar to DNA found in all living cells.

Although these are organic compounds, it doesn't mean that Arrokoth, or rocks like it, would be home to any form of life.

Instead, billions of years ago sugars on Arrokoth could have been transferred via comets to the inner solar system, acting as one of the many ingredients needed for life to form.

The researchers suggest that a 'sugar world' like Arrokoth might have been pulled out of the Kuiper Belt and collided with our planet billions of years ago.

However, Dr Meinert explains: 'Simple building blocks of life do not automatically lead to living cells.

'Evolution is required to assemble simple molecules into functional polymers.'

Although studies suggest that the planetesimal might contain ancient ice at its core, it is far too cold for the formation of liquid water.

Arrokoth and other planetesimals are left over from the formation of the planets 4.5 billion years ago and are found in the Kuiper Belt which harbours comets.

In their paper, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers write that this could have 'delivered biologically important molecules such as carbohydrates to the early Earth.'

Studies have even shown that comets which are slowed down by the gravity of other planets could keep biological molecules safe during a fiery collision with Earth.

That could mean that the origins of life as we know it could have started with a sugary red rock in the frozen reaches of space.

Read more
  • https://www.msn.com/en-my/news/other/red-world-is-rich-in-sugars-similar-to-those-found-in-human-cells/ar-BB1nOEvz

Related

'We've not been able to manage': Hospitals struggling following outage

'We've not been able to manage': Hospitals struggling following outage

News
Unsolved Mysteries: Volume 4 official trailer

Unsolved Mysteries: Volume 4 official trailer

News
South Korean singer Psy cancels 'Summer Swag' concert in Gwacheon mid-performance due to severe weather

South Korean singer Psy cancels 'Summer Swag' concert in Gwacheon mid-performance due to severe weather

News
Arsenal and Germany star Kai Havertz recovers from Euro 2024 heartbreak and ties the knot with long-term model girlfriend Sophia Weber in a stunning ceremony

Arsenal and Germany star Kai Havertz recovers from Euro 2024 heartbreak and ties the knot with long-term model girlfriend Sophia Weber in a stunning ceremony

News
Leny Yoro's temperament and talent impress, Casemiro still has something to offer and the kids are alright for Erik ten Hag: FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED from Man United's 2-0 win over Rangers

Leny Yoro's temperament and talent impress, Casemiro still has something to offer and the kids are alright for Erik ten Hag: FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED from Man United's 2-0 win over Rangers

News
Is this the world's most expensive football ticket? Real Madrid create 300 'Super VIP' seats - worth £210k per seat - as part of £1.5bn renovation of iconic Bernabeu home

Is this the world's most expensive football ticket? Real Madrid create 300 'Super VIP' seats - worth £210k per seat - as part of £1.5bn renovation of iconic Bernabeu home

News
I am a make-up artist - these three mistakes are aging you

I am a make-up artist - these three mistakes are aging you

News
Gen-Z dads’ challenges: Balancing budgets, social pressure and baby needs

Gen-Z dads’ challenges: Balancing budgets, social pressure and baby needs

News