Show Details

Space Smells

April 5, 2018

A listener wants to know if space has smells.

Transcript

NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of the Lagoon Nebula. (NASA/ ESA/ J. Trauger/Jet Propulson Laboratory)

NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of the Lagoon Nebula.
(NASA/ ESA/ J. Trauger/Jet Propulson Laboratory)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Outer space odors. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Curious listener Dave from St. Helens, Oregon emailed to ask if there are smells in space. We asked NASA physicist and space hygiene specialist Betsy Pugel. She says that even though there’s no air in space and no noses to sniff, there are indeed smells.

BETSY PUGEL (NASA):

The air and nose, you know, it’s a relative thing, right? I mean, something that has a smell, the smell comes from an aromatic compound, a chemical compound.

HIRSHON:

She says one source of those aromatic compounds is outgassing of chemicals from spacecraft, when heaters on board warm up components that contain epoxy or other products that then emit fragrant compounds into space. If you’ve got a science question you’d like us to sniff out, call us at 1-800-why-isit. That’s 1-800-949-4748. Or email us at scienceupdate.com. If we use your question on the air, you’ll get a Science Update mug. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.

Story by Bob Hirshon