Home / Spring 2015 / 2015-01-28 / What exactly does space smell like?

What exactly does space smell like?

by Ivey Ingalls-Rubin

According to Astronauts fresh off of their space walks report that there’s a certain smell that clings to them and their equipment. NASA astronaut Don Pettit found himself describing the odor as “a rather pleasant sweet metallic sensation, akin to welding fumes.”

While Pettit smells sweet metal, others have reported the scent to mimic that of “charred meat” or a burnt hotdog. However, it is more likely that they were really smelling polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs. PAHs are merely compounds produced when stars and planets form. According to Jeff Oishi, a research scientist at the museum of natural history in New York, PAHs are also here on Earth, they’re produced when you decide to have a good ol’ fashion BBQ!

Now if you were to travel about 26,000 light years to a dust cloud at the center of our milky way, otherwise known as Sagittarius B2, the scent you might catch a whiff of raspberries and spiced rum. This is because that dust cloud is made of ethyl formate, an ester that gives both these treats their flavor.

“Space is pretty boozy,” said Oishi, “There’s no liquid alcohol, but a lot of different kinds of alcohol have been observed.” For example, in the constellation Aquila, there’s enough space booze to serve 400 trillion trillion tall boys! With that being said, would anyone be down for an Intergalactic bar hop?

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