Uranus has fascinated astronomers for decades and, unfortunately, has also been the butt of jokes for many years (with regard to how its name is pronounced) and the latest discovery that the planet's clouds smell like rotten eggs or, fart, serves to establish that "uranus jokes" will continue for many more years to come. The study revealed that the clouds in the Uranus upper atmosphere contain mostly hydrogen sulfide, which contributes to Uranus's stench. "Now, that part of the puzzle is falling into place as well". As the signal from the spectral lines was faint, it is so hard to capture a snap of the ammonia and sulfide existence.
'While the lines we were trying to detect were just barely there, we were able to detect them unambiguously thanks to the sensitivity of NIFS on Gemini, combined with the exquisite conditions on Maunakea, ' said Irwin. "Although we knew these lines would be at the edge of detection, I made a decision to have a crack at looking for them in the Gemini data we had acquired". Human visitors to the third-largest planet in our solar system would be in for a smelly, though familiar, surprise if they went outside.
NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft paid a short visit to the planet in 1986, but did not manage to observe its atmosphere in detail.
According to the researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology, this alignment would give rise to behaviour that is vastly different from what's seen around Earth.
As a result, the magnetic field "tumbles" asymmetrically relative to the solar wind.
But, when it closes off, it creates a shield against these particles. Based on their work, the researchers point toward hydrogen sulfide as the (likely) correct answer.
The data allowed them to determine that hydrogen sulfide was indeed present, and at much greater concentrations than ammonia (composed of nitrogen and hydrogen), which sets the green gas giant apart from its planetary companions Jupiter and Saturn.
And, while it's lower than previously expected, they say the unsavoury smell wouldn't be the worst of it.
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 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.