Totally serious study finds Uranus smells like rotten eggs
A long-standing staple in the joke books of kids and child-like adults — that Uranus is stinky — is, in fact, true.
A scientific study using “sensitive spectroscopic observations,” via a telescope named the Gemini North, recently discovered that clouds in the upper atmosphere of the seventh planet from the sun contain hydrogen sulfide — the noxious gas that gives rotten eggs their “distinctive odor.”
The finding, published in the journal Nature Astronomy, was made by scientists at the super well respected California Institute of Technology, University of Leicester and University of Oxford, so rest assured that they’re not in it just for the cheap puns.
The researchers analyzed the sun’s reflections off the clouds to conclude what they’re made of using the scope’s Near-Infrared Field Spectrometer (NIFS).
“While the lines we were trying to detect were just barely there, we were able to detect them unambiguously thanks to the sensitivity of NIFS on Gemini,” one of the study’s authors, a planetary physics professor at Oxford, Patrick Irwin, told the Gemini Observatory — the in-house publication dedicated to the instrument.
“Although we knew these lines would be at the edge of detection,” he continued, “I decided to have a crack at looking for them in the Gemini data we had acquired.”
Not being able to control themselves, many social media users have pointed out that hydrogen sulfide is also the signature gas of flatulence and raw sewage.
But the gas would be the least of any astronaut’s worries, if he or she should ever make it that far.
“If an unfortunate human were ever to descend through Uranus’s clouds, they would be met with very unpleasant and odiferous conditions,” Irwin said. “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.”