Space is an area that is far from the planet, where there is no significant amount of air that is needed for breathing and light scattering. In simpler words, space is a vacuumed area where no sound is present. Sound waves cannot transmit because of the distance between the molecules, which is extremely large. While being empty, it has some lightly populated and densely populated regions. In some areas, gas, dust particles, and other matter particles float (lightly populated), and in the other ones, stars and galaxies are found (densely populated).
The human nose cannot detect smells in a vacuum, but the astronauts who return from space report a metallic and smoky aroma like you would feel in a welding industry or a barbecue. NASA is still working on this to conclude why space has this characteristic smell, but most of the scientists agree that it could be because of the dying stars.
It is impossible to inhale in space; astronauts would die if they tried to do so. So how are they able to tell what it smells like? Here’s the answer! While they are present in the space, many space-borne particles adhere to their suits and will travel along with them back to the station. When they removed the masking, they detected an unpleasant burning smell as if the barbecue burnt real bad.
Louis Allamandola, from NASA, says that stars burn of their hydrogen fuel, and this burning process, also called as rampant combustion releases by-products that are smelly and will float forever. These by-products are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are the primary component of coal and food; that is why smoky smell is a resemblance.
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Our solar system has a sharp smell because it is abundant in carbon, while oxygen is present in extremely lower quantities. Carbon is famous for indicating a foul smell wherever it is present. Oxygen-rich stars, on the other hand, and may smell good, just like a charcoal grill.
An astronaut, Thomas jones, explained the smell of space as gun powder. Another spacewalker, Don Pettit, has been a bit more explanatory related to this topic and said that the scent of space had a tickling sensation to his olfactory (smell) sense.
NASA has contacted many perfumers and explained all these points to them so they can create an odor that smells like space or resembles a bit like it so that the astronauts training can be done more efficiently. They have hired Steven Pearce, who is a chemist by profession for this purpose.
It still is a mystery because no one has actually smelled in the space; it’s just the smell that sticks to the astronaut suits, which have made NASA conclude that space has a unique smell, i.e., metallic odor.
No matter how much the space smell resembles welding fumes and barbecue smoke or how sharp it is, the bottom line is that most of the astronauts do not dislike it at all, and many quoted it as a pleasant one!
Until Next Time,
Team Doctor ASKY!