For many years, researchers assumed Uranus must have a foul smell. However, there was no way to prove it. Now, they finally managed to take a close look at its atmosphere, and discovered it contained hydrogen sulfide. This chemical is responsible for producing the unpleasant smell of rotten eggs, so the giant planet is likely to have the same smell.
The hydrogen sulfide would produce a foul smell
Finding the true composition of Uranus’ atmosphere is, indeed, a difficult task. Therefore, researchers decided it was time to look at it with proper equipment. For the task, they used the Near-Infrared Integral Field Spectrometer, together with the 8-meter Gemini North telescope, to look at one of the cloud layers from the upper atmosphere of the planet.
This is how they observed some traces of hydrogen sulfide. This finally confirms the theories regarding the presence of the substance in the planet’s atmosphere. The discovery sets Uranus apart from other gas giants. In the atmosphere of Jupiter and Saturn, for instance, the dominant chemical is ammonia.
Observing the substance in Uranus’ atmosphere has been a difficult task
Researchers explained why the observation of hydrogen sulfide has been so difficult until now. The clouds above Uranus are produced through condensation. This means the gas gets shrouded in an additional layer of clouds, which makes it almost impossible for regular telescope to notice it. Fortunately, the professional tools were powerful enough to penetrate this thick layer.
Therefore, the hydrogen sulfide would produce a foul smell on Uranus. However, if humans ever were to visit the planet, they would also face extreme temperatures right within the planet’s atmosphere. Also, the combination of gases is definitely not friendly for life, so Uranus is not a good destination for space travelers.
The discovery of hydrogen sulfide can shed some light on the main differences between typical gas giants and ice giants, like Uranus and Neptune. Researchers talked more about the strange properties of the planet in a study published in the journal Nature.
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