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Ice pockets on the moon could be cooking up the building blocks of life. Simulations show that cosmic rays coming from outside the galaxy have enough energy to turn simple molecules in lunar ice into more complex organics – carbon-based compounds central to life on Earth.

In 2009, a spacecraft sent crashing into the moon's south pole kicked up water vapour – probably melted from ice trapped in shadowed craters. That water contained organics, but no one was sure how they got there.

Comets also have organics in their ices, so it is possible that the moon's carbon-laden water was delivered by impacts. But Sarah Crites at the University of Hawaii at Manoa wondered if the moon could instead be whipping up its organics from scratch.

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