Arrokoth's Sugars Hint At Life's Early Building Blocks

University of Hawaiʻi

graphic with diagrams of elements

Arrokoth is the most distant object ever explored by a spacecraft from Earth, and it revealed clues to how the solar system has evolved, according to a team of University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa researchers.

Located in the Kuiper Belt (a region of the Solar System beyond the orbit of Neptune), NASA's New Horizons spacecraft visited Arrokoth in 2019 and revealed its reddish appearance, hinting at a complex chemical composition beneath the surface. The presence of methanol-rich surface ices was also discovered, raising questions about the processes responsible for the surface coloring.

A team of scientists from UH Mānoa, Université Côte d'Azur (France) and Southwest Research Institute discovered that Arrokoth's surface contains sugars such as ribose and glucose—biologically significant molecules essential for the building blocks of life.

"Arrokoth provides crucial insights into the processes that influenced the formation of celestial bodies like the Kuiper Belt," said Department of Chemistry

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