IRAS 16293-2422

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This video starts with a broad panorama of the spectacular central regions of the Milky Way seen in visible light. It then zooms in to the Rho Ophiuchi star-forming region in infrared light, highlighting IRAS 16293-2422. Finally, we see an artist's impression of glycolaldehyde molecules, showing glycolaldehyde's molecular structure (C2H4O2).
Observation data
Epoch J2000.0      Equinox J2000.0
Constellation Ophiuchus
Right ascension 16h 32m 22.56s
Declination −24° 28′ 31.8″

IRAS 16293-2422 is a triple protostar system consisting of a binary star (A1/A2) with a 47 astronomical unit (AU) separation and a removed third star (B) 750AU distant, all having masses similar to that of the Sun.[1][2] It is located in the Rho Ophiuchi star-forming region. Astronomers using the ALMA array found glycolaldehyde — a simple form of sugar — in the gas surrounding the star.[3][4] This discovery was the first time sugar has been found in space around a solar-type star on scales corresponding to the distance between Sun and Uranus - i.e., the scales where a planet-forming disk is expected to arise. The discovery shows that the building blocks of life may in the right place, at the right time, to be included in planets forming around the star.

The accretion disk was found to have parts rotating in opposite directions,[5] the first time such a discovery has been made, and means that when planets form, the inner planets will orbit the opposite direction to the outer planets.[6]


  1. ^ Wootten, Alwyn (1989). "The Duplicity of IRAS 16293-2422: A Protobinary Star?". The Astrophysical Journal 337: 858. Bibcode:1989ApJ...337..858W. doi:10.1086/167156. open access publication - free to read
  2. ^ Ceccarelli, C.; Castets, A.; Caux, E.; et al. (2000). "The structure of the collapsing envelope around the low-mass protostar IRAS 16293-2422". Astronomy and Astrophysics 355: 1129–37. Bibcode:2000A&A...355.1129C. ISSN 0004-6361. open access publication - free to read
  3. ^ Jørgensen, J. K.; Favre, C.; Bisschop, S. E.; et al. (2012). "Detection of the Simplest Sugar, Glycolaldehyde, in a Solar-type Protostar with ALMA". The Astrophysical Journal Letters 757: L4. Bibcode:2012ApJ...757L...4J. doi:10.1088/2041-8205/757/1/L4. open access publication - free to read
  4. ^ "Sugar molecules in the gas surrounding a young Sun-like star" (Press release). ESO. February 29, 2012. 
  5. ^ Remijan, Anthony J.; Hollis, J. M. (April 1, 2006). "IRAS 16293-2422: Evidence for Infall onto a Counterrotating Protostellar Accretion Disk". The Astrophysical Journal 640: 842–8. arXiv:astro-ph/0512225. Bibcode:2006ApJ...640..842R. doi:10.1086/500239. open access publication - free to read
  6. ^ Finley, Dave, ed. (February 13, 2006). "Still-Forming Solar System May Have Planets Orbiting Star in Opposite Directions, Astronomers Say" (Press release). New Mexico, United States: National Radio Astronomy Observatory.