Uranus smells like farts: Here's why this discovery matters

Uranus Clouds Smell Like Rotten Eggs

Uranus Clouds Smell Like Rotten Eggs

Until now, it was believed that Uranus is a product of the millions of ammonia molecules and the hydrogen sulfide ice.

The research team, led by Patrick Irwin from the University of Oxford, travelled to Maunakea in Hawaii so they could use the Gemini North telescope, which is 26 feet (8 meters) long and contains a specialized tool called the Near-Infrared Integral Field Spectrometer (NIFS).

A team of scientists came to this conclusion after discovering hydrogen sulfide in the planet's atmosphere. They reported their results April 23 in the journal Nature Astronomy.

A recent study analyzing data collected more than 30 years ago by the Voyager 2 spacecraft has found that the Uranus's global magnetosphere is nothing like Earth's, which is known to be aligned almost with our planet's spin axis.

Chris Davis, a leading funder of the Gemini telescope at the United State's National Science foundation staed that the work done to discover that the amount of hydrogen sulfide was the cause of the odor was an innovative use of the instrument as the telescope is created to study explosive experiments around black holes.

Thanks to that instrument's enormous sensitivity, researchers were able to detect very faint lines on the light spectrum indicating that hydrogen sulfide had absorbed some wavelengths from the sunlight, the scientists said.

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So far, the debate has been around whether hydrogen sulphide or ammonia dominated the gas giant's atmosphere, but astronomers have finally settled it with this new finding, notes the report. This discovery could open up several explanations as to how the outer planets were formed in the early days of the Solar System.

One of the reasons for these differences in atmospheric makeup, explains Dr Leigh Fletcher, from the University of Leicester, co-author of the study, is because of the way the planet formed and the conditions under which the planet was formed.

"Only a tiny amount [of hydrogen sulfide] remains above the clouds as a saturated vapor", Fletcher said, and this made detection a challenge. That smell of the gas resembles that of the rotten eggs.

"Closer to the sun, ammonia would be preferentially in gas form and thus less easily incorporated into the planetary embryos that became Jupiter and Saturn".

'Now, that part of the puzzle is falling into place as well'.

"Suffocation and exposure in the negative 200 degrees Celsius [minus 328 degrees Fahrenheit] atmosphere made of mostly hydrogen, helium and methane would take its toll long before the smell", Irwin added.

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