Rotten eggs, horse pee, alcohol and bitter almonds: this is the bouquet of odours you would smell if a comet in deep space could be brought back to Earth, European scientists said on Thursday.
An instrument aboard the probe Rosetta has detected some intriguing chemical signatures from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko since their rendezvous in deep space in August, they said.
Molecules include ammonia, methane, hydrogen sulphide, hydrogen cyanide and formaldehyde.
“If you could smell the comet, you probably wish that you hadn’t,” the team said wryly in a blog posted on the European Space Agency (ESA) website.
The device, called Rosina-DFMS, is a mass spectrometer — it has been analysing the signature of gas given off by the “coma,” the comet’s head, as the distance closes with the Sun.