Freshly Baked Science
Rum and Raspberries in Outer Space?!
22nd July 2018
We all know what different parts of nature smell like. Fresh cut grass, the seaside, the smell before a thunderstorm… they all have very distinctive smells that we can associate with these things. But have you ever wandered what the centre of the galaxy smells like?
Astronomers discovered the answer to this by accident when they were trying to find new molecules in interstellar objects. They found a chemical in a gas cloud in the Milky Way called ethyl formate. This is the same chemical that gives flowers, wine and fruit their sweet aroma, and on its own, smells a lot like rum! It also happens to be the chemical that gives raspberries their flavour!
Ethyl formate is made from ethanol and formic acid (a mixture of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon). It was able to be discovered by radio telescopes because ethyl formate absorbs radiation from stars and re-radiates it at radio wavelength.
Unfortunately the air in a gas cloud is at a much lower pressure than the air on Earth, so no human would be able to actually smell the rum or taste the raspberries! As disappointing as this may be, we are still very impressed at the mere thought of a cloud in outer space that is essentially a giant raspberry daiquiri!
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