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Some of the key ingredients for life may have been shocked into existence. A physical simulation of a comet's impact with a planet shows that the conditions are extreme enough to create amino acids within the comet's ice.

Astrobiologists have long wondered whether life or its ingredients could have travelled to Earth on the back of a comet or asteroid. Comets are known to contain the organic precursors of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins.

What's more, one comet, Wild 2, was recently shown to contain the simplest amino acid, glycine. But how such an amino acid could form there is still a mystery.

"We do, however, know that high speed impacts are a ubiquitous process as we see impact craters on every solid surface in the solar system," says Mark Price at the University of Kent, UK.

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