Scent Firm Creates 'Space Perfume' That Smells Like Comet 67P

June 29, 2016 | Johannes Van Zijl

Comet 67P seen from the Rosetta spacecraft prior to the Philae landing.
Photo credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM (CC BY-SA IGO 3.0)

A foul perfume that smells like rotten eggs, cat urine and bitter almonds!

A British scent firm called The Aroma Company has created a ‘Space Perfume’ that mimics the aroma of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission touched down the Philae spacecraft on the comet’s surface back in 2014, making history with the first soft landing of a spacecraft module on a comet. Philae discovered various chemicals and gases as it passed through the comet’s trailing atmosphere known as a coma. Its instruments picked up hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and hydrogen cyanide — gases that smell of rotten eggs, cat urine and bitter almonds.

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Researchers in the UK wanted to create a perfume that mimics the smell of those gases found in comet 67P’s coma. Colin Snodgrass, a researcher from the Open University in Milton Keynes, UK, who worked on the Rosetta mission, made the request to The Aroma Company to create the ‘Space Perfume’.  

“Most of the coma is water vapour, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, and they don’t smell of anything,” said Snodgrass in conversation with New Scientist. “We’ve picked the things that are the smelliest.”

In developing the comet perfume, the scent firm replaced some of the compounds that were toxic, like hydrogen cyanide that smells of bitter almonds, with alternatives that smell similarly.

“If you could smell a comet, this is what you would get, but it would be difficult to actually smell it,” said Snodgrass. “If you are standing there without your space suit, you’re not going to notice the smell, you’re just going to notice the lack of air.”

Samples of the perfume will be handed out at the upcoming Royal Society summer exhibition in London, during the month of July, where members of the public will be able to take a sniff of the comet perfume themselves.

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