Ah, the sweet smell of a comet as it soars across the night sky ... stardust and rainbows with a hint of fresh mint, right?
Wrong. More like cyanide and cat pee with a heaping helping of rotten eggs.
If you think you'd like to experience that in person, you're not alone; researchers from The Open University in England and ESA's Rosetta science team recently commissioned scent specialists at The Aroma Company to concoct a custom scent that more-or-less accurately portrays the various compounds found in the coma of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, first sniffed by ESA's Rosetta spacecraft on Oct. 10, 2014.
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In addition to expected molecules of water, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide, Rosetta's sensor detected methane, formaldehyde, ammonia, sulphur dioxide, and a considerable concentration of hydrogen sulfide -- the compound responsible for the aroma of rotten eggs.
(Perhaps the IAU should change its name to 67 P-U.)
According to a June 22, 2016 article on New Scientist, Open University researcher Colin Snodgrass wanted to show people what it might smell like on comet 67P -- that is, if you could actually take a sniff there. (The lack of any available air would of course make that impossible, and removing one's space helmet is not recommended.)
By combining some of the stinkier chemical compounds with non-toxic, similar-smelling versions of others found on 67P, the resulting perfume can be combined with the fantastic images returned by Rosetta to create a truly multi-sensory comet experience.
As to the smell itself? "It's not that bad," Snodgrass noted.
Hardly an evocative tagline but hey, I'm intrigued.
The odoriferous aroma of 67P/C-G will be shared on postcards at The Royal Society's Summer Science Exhibition in London the week of July 4, and will be made available afterwards for outreach opportunities.
Image: Comet 67P/C-G imaged by Rosetta on March 28, 2015. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NavCam – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0.
via: New Scientist
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