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A thousand kilometers above the surface, Saturn's giant moon Titan may be producing the building blocks of life, a team of U.S. and European scientists have discovered.

Working in a French laboratory, the scientists put together a Titan-style atmosphere combining nitrogen, methane, and a trace of carbon monoxide, which is present on Titan at 50 ppm levels. They then ionized the gases with microwaves to simulate the effect of solar ultraviolet light.

What they found was a mix of surprisingly complex organic chemicals, says Sarah Horst, a graduate student in planetary sciences at the University of Arizona, Tucson, who reported at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division of Planetary Sciences, 7 October in Pasadena, California.

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Category: Science