This is a very real conclusion by very real scientists. The planet, often the butt of jokes, has an atmosphere that smells like rotting eggs because its clouds are composed of hydrogen sulfide.
A new study published on Monday in Nature Astronomy suggests the presence of the stinky gas in Uranus’ clouds. Scientists have previously inferred that the planet’s atmosphere contained ammonia and hydrogen sulfide based on the lack of certain light wavelength, but it wasn’t directly observed. Using a 26-feet-long telescope at the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii, a team led by Oxford University’s Patrick Irwin studied sunlight refracted off Uranus’ clouds. They spotted hydrogen sulfide.
“If an unfortunate human were ever to descend through Uranus’ clouds, they would be met with very unpleasant and odiferous conditions,” Irwin said in a statement to , “[But] suffocation, and exposure … would take its toll long before the smell.”
The upper composition of its atmosphere also sheds some light on the solar system’s history and formation.
Unlike in Uranus, which known as an ice giant because the molecules in its composition are heavier than hydrogen and helium, scientists have observed no hydrogen sulfide in gas giants Jupiter and Saturn. The gas giants’ atmosphere contains ammonia instead. Neptune, another ice giant, likely contains clouds with a similar composition to those in Uranus. This indicates that Uranus and Neptune formed much further from the sun than Jupiter and Saturn did.
In a statement, research team member Leigh Fletcher noted how different the conditions must have been at the time of each planets’ formation.
“During our solar system’s formation, the balance between nitrogen and sulfur — and hence ammonia and Uranus’ newly detected hydrogen sulfide — was determined by the temperature and location of [a] planet’s formation,” he said.
Uranus smells like farts that actually mean we’re studying a little bit more about how our solar system came into being.