Photo/IllutrationSugar found in a meteorite (Provided by Yoshihiro Furukawa, associate professor of Tohoku University)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Scientists have found sugar in meteorites dating back billions of years, which may turn out to explain the origins of life on Earth.

The team, comprising scientists mainly from Tohoku and Hokkaido universities and NASA, made the discovery after breaking down meteorites found in Australia, among other locations, into powders and making them gas in a special method.

When they analyzed the components, they discovered the ribose.

The simple sugar is different from those originating on Earth, such as its percentage of carbonic isotopes.

The team published its findings in the Nov. 19 online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) (

While organic substances such as amino acids have been previously discovered in meteorites, it is the first discovery of sugar, which is necessary for the formation of ribonucleic acid (RNA) containing the building blocks of life.

The meteorites are believed to have been generated more than 4 billion years before life on Earth. While it is possible that ribose could have been created on this planet at that time, there have been no findings thus far.

The team will further analyze the meteorites and investigate how much sugar may have been brought to Earth from space.