Almost rhymes with “vomit”

I have to admit, while I was sitting there watching Neil and Buzz traipsing about on the moon, it never would have occurred to me to ask what it smelled like, and if it had, well, given long-established family propensities, there inevitably would have been a response redolent of cheese, and green cheese at that. And being still a teenager, I’d probably have laughed at it.

Now this sort of question doesn’t seem so funny anymore, especially when there’s an actual answer:

A European spacecraft orbiting a distant comet has finally answered a question we’ve all been wondering: What does a comet smell like?

“It stinks,” says Kathrin Altwegg, a researcher at the University of Bern in Switzerland who runs an instrument called ROSINA that picked up the odor.

The European Space Agency has posted a full rundown of the comet’s BO on its website. The mix includes ammonia (NH3), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), formaldehyde (CH2O) and methanol (CH3OH).

Like the doo-doo room with the reek replete, as Frank Zappa once said.

Of course, anyone visiting the comet would be wearing a spacesuit (on top of that, the sense of smell is notoriously numb in space). Nevertheless, taking a whiff of this comet would be like sharing a horse barn with a drunk and a dozen rotten eggs.

The comet is currently hurtling towards the sun, which at least means it won’t be picking up any stray odors from Uranus. (You knew that was coming, right?)

2 comments

  1. fillyjonk »

    30 October 2014 · 7:10 am

    I read somewhere that the general, average odor of outer space is hypothesized to be vaguely like raspberries. A comet like this would be an unpleasant surprise.

  2. McGehee »

    30 October 2014 · 9:41 am

    Be fair. Those things have been drifting around for billions of years. You wouldn’t expect a Mercury Comet that old to still have that new-car smell.

    Not without a lot of cleanser…

RSS feed for comments on this post