An artist's concept of meteors that affect the old earth. Some scientists believe that such effects may have provided water and other molecules useful for emerging life on Earth. Image Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab. "Cyanide, a carbon atom attached to a nitrogen atom, is considered essential to the origin of life, as it is involved in the non-biological synthesis of organic compounds as amino acids and nucleobases, which are the building blocks of proteins and nucleic acids used of all known forms of life, "says Dr. Karen Smith, a researcher at Boise State University.
Dr. Smith and colleagues developed new analytical methods to extract and measure ancient traces of cyanide in meteorites.
They analyzed 5 CM chondrite meteorites (ALH 83100, LEW 85311, LEW 90500, LON 94102 and Murchison), CR (GRA 06100) and CV (RBT 04133) chondrite meteorites and a martend meteorite (ALH 84001).
Only CM chondrites contained the highest concentration of cyanide compounds in LEW (Lewis Cliff) 85311.
Dr. Smith and co-authors were surprised to find that cyanide along with carbon monoxide (CO) was binding with iron to form stable compounds in the meteorites. They also identified two different iron cyanocarbonyl complexes – [Fe (CN) (CO)] 3- and [Fe II ( CN) 4 (CO) 2