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Uranus smells like rotten eggs

The planet’s cloud tops contain hydrogen sulfide, the compound that gives bad eggs their stink

By
11:00am, April 23, 2018
Uranus

TAKE A WHIFF  Uranus is a lovely robin’s egg blue in this image taken by the Voyager 2 spacecraft when it flew past in 1986. New measurements of the planet’s chemistry suggests it may smell like eggs, too — that is, really rotten eggs. 

Uranus’ upper clouds are made of hydrogen sulfide — the same molecule that gives rotten eggs their noxious odor.

“At the risk of schoolboy sniggers, if you were there, flying through the clouds of Uranus, yes, you’d get this pungent, rather disastrous smell,” says planetary scientist Leigh Fletcher of the University of Leicester in England.

Using a spectrograph on the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii, Fletcher and his colleagues detected the chemical fingerprint of hydrogen sulfide at the top of the planet’s clouds, the team reports April 23 in Nature Astronomy.

That wasn’t a complete surprise: Observations from the 1990s showed hints of hydrogen sulfide lurking deeper in Uranus’ atmosphere. But the gas hadn’t been conclusively detected before.

The clouds aren’t just smelly — they can help nail down details of the

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