Uranus has fascinated astronomers for decades and, unfortunately, has also been the butt of jokes for many years (with regard to how its name is pronounced). The latest discovery that the planet's clouds smell like rotten eggs or fart serves to establish that "Uranus jokes" will continue for many more years to come.
Clouds Surrounding Uranus Smell Like Rotten Eggs, Really!
According to a new study, which was published in Nature Astronomy, there's a lot of smelly stuff hanging around the planet. It revealed that the clouds in the Uranus's upper atmosphere contain mostly hydrogen sulfide, which contributes to Uranus's stench.
Patrick Irwin, from the Oxford University in England and lead author of the study, explained that if a human were to ever come in contact with the Uranus clouds, they would definitely be disgusted with the awful scent that the clouds give off.
"If an unfortunate human were ever to descend through Uranus' clouds, they would be met with very unpleasant and odiferous conditions," Irwin explained
Several scientists have always thought that the clouds near the giant green planet's surface contain hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, but it was always an assumption rather than an observation. However, Irwin confirmed that visiting astronauts noticed a scent as they got closer to the planet's atmosphere.
When the astronauts got deeper into Uranus's atmosphere, they measured more hydrogen sulfide than ammonia and the exact concentration of hydrogen sulfide required, which produced a rotten-egg fart smell.
NIFS Helps To Uncover The Mystery
Irwin and his colleagues studied Uranus's air by using a Near-Infrared Integral Field Spectrometer, also known as NIFS, which is a 26-foot Gemini North telescope in Hawaii. The telescope examined the sunlight reflected from the atmosphere above Uranus' clouds and noticed that there was a significant amount of hydrogen sulfide.
Chris Davis, a leading funder of the Gemini telescope at the United States National Science Foundation, stated that the work done to discover that the amount of hydrogen sulfide as the cause of the odor was an innovative use of the instrument, as the telescope is designed to study explosive environments around black holes.
"To use NIFS to solve a longstanding mystery in our own Solar System is a powerful extension of its use," Davis said.