Not breaking news by any means, but fascinating nonetheless. A while back I told you about some of the interesting properties of moon dust, one of which was the peculiar smell of it.

Every now and then an article about outer space itself having a smell will appear, and in every one it has been a puzzle. While you’ll never be able to take a whiff of vacuum thanks to there being no air, our noses are just molecule detectors, and if particles brushed up against your olfactory nerves in another way, you would still smell them. ISS Science Officer Don Pettit describes it as similar to how snakes smell, wagging their tongues in the air and collecting molecules that they then then press against detectors in their mouth.

So what are they smelling up there? Given the description by Pettit, ozone seems like a good answer, but I’m not 100% sure if any of it gets into the exosphere in order to cling to a spacesuit.

If you’ve never been around a welder, I highly recommend getting closer to experience the smell (Just don’t look at the arc!) It’s a very unique, unoffensive scent, and I can wholly relate to Pettit’s nostalgia*. In my experience, it’s also hard to mistake for something else.

But of course, until they get some good tools on it, it’s all just speculation. Oh, and the raspberry nebula? Too wild to pass up**. Before you get any ideas though, it’s also full of deadly propyl cyanide. Them’s the breaks when it comes to the Universe: Full of amazing things; All of it wants to kill you.



*Being around angle grinders does the same thing. Again, that oxidized metal smell. My days as a metal sculptor still bring me all sorts of comforting moments when I least expect it.

**Total bummer, but it’s probably not pink. Here’s hoping though.