The organizers of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s meeting promised an experience “Sink” And “Alfactive” At the Nantes Exhibition Center (Lower-Atlantic). And during the painting dedicated to space, in fact, visitors were able to smell the aroma of gunpowder, roasted meat, raspberries and rum. The service provider behind Space Perfume is anonymous, but the chapter calls: What are the secrets of the chemical cocktail that can fill the bottle of the universe? NASA certainly had some discussions with the chemist in 2008, but the project never came to light.
Let’s start with the evidence. Of course, it is not possible to breathe directly into space, although some astronauts have provided stories based on the smell of clothing after a spacewalk. At least we can say that their descriptions are very vague. “Space smells different than anything that actually exists”Discovery shuttle pilot Dominic Antonelli said. Was contacted By Space.com (In English), Described by NASA senior Thomas Jones “Ozone odor, a slightly pungent odor” Or a “The smell of burnt gunpowder” ; The other is finally mentioned “A soft metallic feel is so sweet “.
However, these testimonies present a possible bias, as Robin Isnard points out, astronomy and Science promoter on the Internet. “There may have been weather on some metal surfaces outside the International Space Station, as a result of which they are being manufactured Some organic matter. This odor reported by astronauts may be the result of oxidation, which is higher than the inherent quality of space. This is what happens in some currencies: presence Metal and sweat, fatty acids formed in the skin form certain molecules. They are the ones we associate that smell with the metal, not the coin.
To get the answers, it is necessary to identify possible odor molecules in space, thanks to the work of astronomers. Last month, On the NASA website (In English), American researcher Louis Alamandola created two unique playgrounds in search of this scent. He first cites the atmosphere at the end of the lifespan of stars that have consumed hydrogen. At this point, they release heavy elements such as carbon, nitrogen and oxygen. Depending on the distribution of these elements, some stars will produce silica, while others will produce heat containing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) – the smell of which will make you think of diesel vehicles or “With Burnt Burgers”. Here is the first song that will be near the stars at the end of their lives.
The second path leads to the heart of the “molecular clouds” of the Milky Way, where we are “Dust from silicate rock core and water ice and other compounds (methanol, ammonia, carbon monoxide …) can be found”, Explains Robin Isnard. In short, so we have to imagine “A kind of weird ice cream shop dominated by the suffocation of ammonia with cold ice water.”, Mocks Louise Almandola. Due to the presence of formaldehyde (formaldehyde), it also triggers the sad smell of a morgue. Disgraceful.
What about space raspberries? The birth of a star gives off heat and radiation “Activate chemical reactions in this ice” Molecular Clouds, continues Robin Isnard. Until more complex molecules are formed with a large number of atoms: ethanol, aldehydes, even some odorous molecules. With that, “Dust cloud in the center of the Milky Way [nommé Sagittarius B2] Contains high ethyl format “, Another researcher, Scott Sandford, adds to the NASA article. This compound plays a role in raspberry aroma. Also, this is a product “Reaction between an acid and a type of alcohol”, What “Smells like rum”.
However, be careful before falling into the latest “Flame Red Fruits” collection from space. “Flavors are the result of a combination of many molecules, Actually Robin Isnard recalled. And I don’t think the ethyl format alone makes you think about raspberries. “ Many compounds (ketone, ion, etc.) thus play an important role in the taste of the fruit. Further, “These compounds tend to integrate on the surface [des poussières] And not too turbulent. “Adds Grégoire Danger, astronomer and assistant director of the Origins Institute at the University of Aix-Marseille.
Ethyl format is, finally, one of dozens of molecules Identified in 2009 (In English) During work on Sagittarius B2 by Max-Planck. “In this list, You’ll definitely find molecules that do not smell good! “ The study was co-signed by franceinfo Arnaud Belloche. Therefore, it is difficult to associate oneself with one of them. In more detail, some 260 molecules have been identified (In English) In interstellar medium.
“I do not know exactly what scent dominates because it depends on the composition of the medium, i.e. the ratio of each molecule in the galaxy.”Arnaud Belloche, astronomer at the Max-Planck Institute
On the other hand, the organic chemistry of space is still in its infancy. “In fact, there are molecules all over the universe that are more numerous and complex than have been identified to date., Grégoire adds risk. Defined by radio astronomical detection tools. Beyond a certain number of atoms, a dozen “, It is difficult to reconstruct these molecules from different wavelengths emitted by each type of atom. So the molecular portfolio is undoubtedly much more complete than we can imagine today, which multiplies potential combinations.
But we do not go further, because unfortunately space is a big obstacle in the search for perfume. Even if interested molecules are identified, their concentration should be sufficient to be detected by the human organism. Really? “That’s the decent thing to do, and it should end there. “, Arnad Belloch responds. Uwe Meierhenrich, a leading expert in the chemistry of aromas, explains to franceinfo “Alfactory receptors (proteins) do not function under such conditions”. So all you have to do is dream, and imagine what you want.
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