News Picks : Simulations suggest organic molecules can form in lunar ice
11 February 2014
New Scientist: Water found on the Moon in 2009 had a high concentration of organic molecules, but how they got there wasn't clear. Sarah Crites at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and her colleagues used radiation data from lunar orbiters to model the effect of extragalactic cosmic rays on the molecules in the ice. Their simulations suggest that the radiation is energetic enough to cause simple molecules like carbon dioxide and ammonia to combine into more complex organic molecules such as methane. The calculations indicate that up to 6% of the smaller molecules could be converted in just 1 billion years. They found similar results when modeling Mercury. Although molecules such as methane are relatively complex, they are still far from the complexity of DNA and don't necessarily suggest the possibility that life ever formed. However, there may be areas of various planets and moons that have provided more hospitable conditions.