According to a NASA press release, a team of scientists found sugar molecules in two different fallen meteorites that are critical to the development of life on Earth.
One of the sugars is the RNA component ribose, an important biological building block, and the discovery that it may have come from space complicates our understanding of the origin of life.
Scientists from NASA and a trio of Japanese universities took extra steps to make sure they did not just contaminate their samples.
However, the carbon atoms found in the sugar molecules of the meteorites differed from those generally found on Earth in the journal PNAS .
The team hopes to double the search for ribose in pristine samples of space rocks taken from the asteroid Ryugu on its way to Earth.
Scientists have not found the sugars that make up DNA, but ribose is a key component of RNA that may have evolved for the first time in evolutionary history.
"The research provides the first direct evidence of ribose in space and the release of ribose for sugar to the soil, said senior researcher Yoshihiro Furukawa of Tohoku University in the NASA press release.
" The alien sugar could have contributed to the formation of RNA on the prebiotic soil, possibly leading to the emergence of life. "1