Comet 67P has a bad smell

The comet in space that has been under intense study since August, and is the aim of being landed on in November, ironically enough – has a very unique, and distasteful smell, according to scientists. Thankfully, humans will not have to encounter that – but the scientists discovered that if the mass was brought back to earth, or even a portion of it were brought back to earth, it would smell like rotten eggs, horse pee, alcohol, and bitter almonds.

One of the instruments aboard the Rosetta craft has detected some interesting chemical signatures from the comet. In fact, the molecules include ammonia, methane, hydrogen sulphide, hydrogen cyanide, and formaldehyde. All of which are known for their strong, and oppressive odors.


One member of the European Space Agency said on their website that “If you could smell the comet, you probably wish that you hadn’t.”

The device that has been making these analytical decisions is called the Rosina-DFMS, and it’s a spectrometer. Over the last several weeks it has been looking at the signature of gas given off by the head of the comet.

At this point many scientists are confused, and were initially surprised by the wealth of varying molecules that are present at the comet. Originally it was believed that just the most volatile molecules would be released from the comet as it slowly warmed, getting closer to the sun.

The comet 67P has been a part of the ongoing mission to better understand the origins of a comet, and has been a part of lofty expectations to actually land the device on the comet come November 12th. The robot lander called Philae will land and use several instruments on the lander to take a better look at the comet, and have a better understanding than scientists currently do about its existence.

It’s interesting though that the first major finding that scientists come to through their research of the comet is that it would likely smell entirely repulsive to any living human. However, as humans will not have to actually come face-to-face with the comet, and will have a robot lander to do their bidding, it will be interesting to see what further evidence can be found at the surface, if it is able to successfully land.