Everyone knows that no one in space can hear you scream, but the sense of smell remains a possibility. Scientists say they can detect what certain areas of space would smell like based upon the discovery of molecules in those swaths of space.
Will we ever be able to directly smell anything in space? An astronaut could never take off their helmet during space walks and live to tell the tale, but certain scents linger upon equipment after the return to Earth. According to The Atlantic, astronauts have described the smells as “seared steak” and “welding fumes.” Spacewalker Thomas Jones once described the smell as “a distinct odor of ozone, a faint acrid smell, and sulfurous.”
Those scents arrive from the areas we’ve actually explored in space. What happens when scientists dare to venture much further away via molecule analysis? According to The Guardian, astronomers have done some heavy-duty hypothesizing upon the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Their findings take into consideration the electromagnetic radiation emitted by the dust cloud at the Milky Way’s central point. Based upon how the gas cloud is absorbed by certain chemicals, these astronomers identified the presence of the ethyl formate molecule. On Earth, this molecule smells like raspberries and rum.
This discovery has other ramifications. Scientists are searching long and hard for the presence of amino acids, the building blocks of life. This discovery would be a Holy Grail of sorts and give astronomers plenty of ammunition to back claims of alien life in the universe. So far, the search has revealed the presence of around 50 different molecules near the center of the Milky Way. One of these molecules is the very lethal propyl cyanide, which was located within the same dust cloud as the “rum and raspberry” molecule. Two of the molecules have never before been detected by scientists anywhere, which presents an interesting mystery for the future.
The search continues for amino acids at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, but researchers received a huge morale boost after discovering ethyl formate. This all but guarantees that an amino acid will eventually be discovered in space. Will it happen during our lifetime? We’ll have to wait and see.
Sources: The Atlantic, The Guardian & University of Hertfordshire