No need for a probe: Uranus stinks, astronomers confirm

  • 26/04/2018
Uranus: "unpleasant and odiferous".
Uranus: "unpleasant and odiferous". Photo credit: Getty

Uranus smells like farts and rotten eggs, astronomers have discovered.

The amusing coincidence has been revealed in a new study of the gas giant, published in Nature Astronomy.

Astronomers at NASA studied infrared light from Uranus and found its outer layer is rich in hydrogen sulphide - the substance which makes flatulence and rotten eggs smell bad. 

"If an unfortunate human were ever to descend through Uranus' clouds, they would be met with very unpleasant and odiferous conditions," said lead researcher Patrick Irwin.

"We've strongly suspected that hydrogen sulphide gas was influencing the millimetre and radio spectrum of Uranus for some time, but we were unable to attribute the absorption needed to identify it positively," said physicist Glenn Orton of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory .

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

Uranus' less amusingly named neighbour Neptune is also suspected of smelling bad thanks to hydrogen sulphide. Jupiter and Saturn are more likely to give off a whiff of ammonia.

Don't worry about ever having to smell Uranus though - if you were exposed to it, you wouldn't have to suffer for long.

"Suffocation and exposure in the -200degC atmosphere made of mostly hydrogen, helium, and methane would take its toll long before the smell," said Prof Irwin.

Finding out what the gas giants are made of will help scientists figure out how the solar system formed.