Well, this stinks!
Researchers at the University of Oxford have confirmed what every middle school boy always hoped to be true: Uranus really does smell like farts and rotten eggs. Their study was published this week in the journal Nature Astronomy.
The scientists focused on the chemical composition of Uranus’ upper atmosphere as sunlight bounced off it.
They examined the seventh planet from the sun using the Near-Infrared Integral Field Spectrometer (NIFS) at the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii.
Results showed that Uranus’ cloud cover is composed of hydrogen sulfide gas. That’s the same compound that gives rotten eggs and flatulence their distinctively noxious scents.
This sets Uranus apart from the other “gas giant” planets like Jupiter and Saturn, which mostly feature ammonia clouds. Neptune likely features a similar chemical makeup to Uranus, but that will require further research.
“If an unfortunate human were ever to descend through Uranus’ clouds, they would be met with very unpleasant and odiferous conditions,” study co-author Patrick Irwin said in a statement.
Human explorers would never have the opportunity to do that, however. They would succumb to Uranus’ brutal atmosphere and temperatures (which average -392° Fahrenheit) long before they smelled gas.
An unmanned spacecraft could make its way to Uranus, however. The planet has been visited just once, during a brief flyby from NASA’s Voyager 2 probe in 1986.
But researchers are now developing a probe that can plunge through the planet’s pungent clouds.
So it looks like the last one there really is a rotten egg.