Uranus smells like rotten eggs- gas giant has hydrogen sulphide rich atmosphere

A computer enhancement of a NASA Voyager 2 image emphasising the high-level haze in Uranus upper atmosphere

Uranus Clouds Smell Like Rotten Eggs

The malodorous gas was detected high above the giant planet's cloud tops.

Using the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii, researchers from the United Kingdom analyzed Uranus using a technique known as spectroscopy to identify the elements contained within.

The possibility of this gas being present in the atmosphere of the seventh planet had always been debated, but has now been confirmed for the first time by observations at a telescope on Hawaii.

The planets in our solar system can have dramatically different cloud decks based on how they were formed, the researchers explain. Scientists have found evidence of hydrogen sulfide throughout the upper atmosphere of Uranus.

This image of a crescent Uranus, taken by Voyager 2 on January 24, 1986, reveals its icy blue atmosphere. It's interesting to note that Gemini's Near-Infrared Integral Field Spectrometer (NIFS) was created to study explosive environments around the supermassive black holes found at the center of far-away galaxies. As the signal from the spectral lines was faint, it is so hard to capture a snap of the ammonia and sulfide existence. The conditions that existed when the planets formed may have shaped which of the two compounds became dominant in the upper clouds. "Only a tiny amount remains above the clouds as a saturated vapour", said Leigh Fletcher, co-author of the paper and a senior research fellow at the University of Leicester. "The superior capabilities of Gemini finally gave us that lucky break".

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Glenn Orton, of Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, who worked on the study, said: "We've strongly suspected that hydrogen sulphide gas was influencing the millimetre spectrum of Uranus for some time, but we were unable to attribute the absorption needed to it uniquely". This is an observation that contrasts sharply with the inner gas giant planets Jupiter and Saturn, where no hydrogen sulfide is seen above the clouds - instead, ammonia is observed.

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

The telescope's spectrometer measured reflected sunlight from a region directly above the main visible cloud layer in Uranus's atmosphere, according to Patrick Irwin, lead author of the new paper and researcher at the University of Oxford, UK.

Of course, it wouldn't be possible for a human to take a whiff of the planet's atmosphere before he or she died in the extremely cold temperatures, exceeding minus 300 degrees Fahrenheit, in addition to the unwelcoming atmosphere that's made mostly of helium, hydrogen and methane, Irwin also said.

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