Space & Astronomy
Uranus smells like rotten eggs, say scientists
By T.K. Randall
April 23, 2018 · 22 comments
Uranus smells really bad (no pun intended). Image Credit: NASA
Hydrogen sulfide, which gives rotten eggs their smell, has been discovered in the seventh planet's atmosphere.
The presence of the gas on Uranus had long been suspected, but it wasn't until astronomers made observations using the Near-Infrared Integral Field Spectrometer (NIFS) instrument on the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii that it was finally confirmed.
The instrument was able to spot the signature of hydrogen sulfide above Uranus' cloud tops.
"Only a tiny amount remains above the clouds as a saturated vapor," said study co-author Leigh Fletcher from the University of Leicester. "And this is why it is so challenging to capture the signatures of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide above cloud decks of Uranus."
"The superior capabilities of Gemini finally gave us that lucky break."
The discovery is helping physicists understand more about the structure and atmosphere of Uranus.
"If an unfortunate human were ever to descend through Uranus' clouds, they would be met with very unpleasant and odiferous conditions," said study lead author Patrick Irwin of Oxford University.
"[Of course], suffocation and exposure in the negative 200 degrees Celsius atmosphere, made of mostly hydrogen, helium, and methane, would take its toll long before the smell."
Source: BBC News
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