The European Space Agency sent a probe into space to link up with a comet many months ago called Rosetta. The comet that was the target for the probe is known as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Already the probe has been able to send back some of the most detailed images of the surface of a comet that we have ever seen. The probe has also been gathering data on other aspects of the comet, such as what sort of molecules are being emitting.
That data gives us an idea of what the comet would smell like if we could sniff it. As it turns out, the comet smells very bad. The molecules being emitted by the comet include hydrogen sulphide, ammonia, and hydrogen cyanide mixed with frozen water and carbon dioxide. That means it smells like a mix of cat urine, bitter eggs, and bitter almonds.
The spectrometers on Rosetta that picked up these molecules and gave an idea of what the comet smells like weren’t expected to detect such a range of molecules until the comet got closer to the sun and started melting.
The comet also has healthy doses of formaldehyde, methanol, and sulphur dioxide in the mix. The team controlling the probe says that when the comet gets closer to the sun and heats up, Rosetta will be able to detect more complex molecules.
SOURCE: New Scientist