What Does the Sun Smell Like?

February 15, 2024

Do you remember the smell of sunscreen as a kid? It was overripe coconut mixed with the harsh perfume that sunscreen companies add to make you think of summer. Unfortunately, that smell doesn’t just stay on your skin—it lingers in the air around you for hours after you’ve left the beach. And while some people love that lingering, others can’t stand it. That’s why solar scents—the newest trend in fragrance—are so popular.

A solar scent smells like a warm, summery day and is typically composed of citrus, floral, fruity, or woody notes that create a radiant glow on your skin. But a solar scent doesn’t have to be sour and acidic, in fact some of the best ones are smooth and rich with a decadent sweetness.

Astronauts have described the smell of space in many different ways. Some have compared it to the smell of a burnt steak or spent gunpowder, but one theory has to do with space’s near-perfect vacuum. Apparently, UV rays in space can split oxygen molecules into single atoms that cling to surfaces, including towels and spacesuits, and then react with other chemicals, such as ozone, to emit the smelly odor.

Other astronauts have cited an unexpected smell, such as the burning of wax or overheated brake pads. But a more intriguing possibility has to do with stellar explosions—dying stars. According to research, these celestial outbursts produce smelly polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that resemble the smell of burned meat or charcoal.

Mission

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