What do you think a comet smells like?
We’ve been giving out Rosetta smelly comet postcards in the European Parliament and asking people what they think a comet smells like. We’ve added the responses to our list from the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) 2016 in Manchester, back in July.
The answers are wide and varied:
Madrid Airport. Face powder. Hospitals. Almond biscuits. Toilet block freshners. Worked metal and fried meat. Old Chanel. Carbon. The Jorvik Viking Centre. Cut grass. Talcum powder. A car air freshener that’s been run over by a truck. Chalky. Stables. Sandalwood. Plasticine. Musty. Dodgy aftershave. Toilet paper. Patchouli. The London Dungeon. Dust. Burnt essence. Indian Ashram. Toilet cleaner. Coal. Old felt toy. Incense. Earthy. Cat litter tray. Air-bag packaging. Hand wipes. Horse poo. Old-fashioned soap. Rotten animals. Playdoh…
The mass spectrometer instruments on Rosetta and Philae measured the chemical composition of the comet. It is mostly:
CO (carbon monoxide)
CO2 (carbon dioxide)
H2S (hydrogen sulphide)
SO2 (sulphur dioxide)
Rosetta has discovered many other rare molecules in the comet, including amino acids that are the building blocks of proteins and all life on Earth.