Uranus smells like rotten eggs, according to scientists using Hawaii telescope

Federico Mansilla
Abril 25, 2018

The clouds in Uranus' upper atmosphere are composed largely of hydrogen sulfide, the molecule that makes rotten eggs so stinky, a new study suggests.

Oxford scientists added that while they found enough of the molecules required to trigger the familiar rotten egg smell, it's unlikely any human will ever be unlucky enough to smell Uranus. The scientists of the latest study informed that the Gemini telescope traced between 0.4 and 0.8 parts per million of hydrogen sulfide existing as ice inside the cloud layer of Uranus.

The scientists uncovered the foul-smelling details using the Near-Infrared Integral Field Spectrometer (NIFS) of Hawaii's Gemini North telescope. While evidence of the molecular compounds was "barely there", Irwin said scientists were still "able to detect them unambiguously" given the sensitivity of their instruments and the "exquisite conditions" on Mauna Kea. "And this is why it is so challenging to capture the signatures of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide above cloud decks of Uranus".

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Understanding what makes up distant planets, such as Uranus, could help scientists determine where in the solar system the planets first formed and how far they moved from the sun over time, Business Insider reported. "Only a tiny amount remains above the clouds as a saturated vapor", researcher Leigh Fletcher said.

Hopefully, the proposed spacecraft will be unmanned like its predecessor, Voyager 2, because Orton said the probe will be expected to plunge through Uranus' pungent clouds.

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