The carbon atoms found in the sugar were different from those typically found on Earth.
A team including Yoshihiro Furukawa, an associate professor at Tohoku University, and researchers from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and other organizations analyzed three kinds of meteorites, including the Murchison meteorite that fell in Australia in 1969. Both space rocks are believed to be older than Earth itself (more than 4.5 billion years old) and have been shown in previous studies to carry organic matter, including amino acids.
Since its arrival in December 2018, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has mapped the entire Bennu asteroid in order to identify the safest and most accessible spots for the spacecraft to collect a sample.
The researchers analyzed the meteorite samples using gas chromatography mass spectrometry, which allows scientists to categorize molecules by their mass and electric charge. These sugars are all important for life, and ribose in particular is a key part of RNA. This latest discovery points toward that, revealing the presence of xylose, ribose, and arabinose, all of them bio-essential sugars. RNA acts as a "messenger molecule", delivering data from amino acids to genes.
Ribose is a crucial component of RNA (ribonucleic acid).
An worldwide team of scientists from Japan and the United States has found ribose and other bioessential sugars in two primitive meteorites, NWA 801 and Murchison.
It's the first time direct evidence of sugar being delivered to Earth from space has been discovered.
And RNA also carries information, with researchers think it first evolved and only later replaced by DNA.
"This is important since there could have been a delivery bias of extraterrestrial ribose to the early Earth which is consistent with the hypothesis that RNA evolved first".
"These results will help guide our analyses of pristine samples from primitive asteroids Ryugu and Bennu, to be returned by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Hayabusa2 and NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft", he noted. These asteroids, which have never come in contact with Earth and are between a few hundred million and a billion years old each, could help scientists prove which types of molecules truly originate off of our planet and which showed up only after the sugar was served. The research was published Monday in the journal PNAS.