Planetary Body Odors
A smell emanating from a Norton County meteorite gives this author some idea how an asteroid would smell if it had an atmosphere.
This has to be one of my more unusual “Findings”!
This “finding” involves the smell of a meteorite, which I’m discovering is a very difficult subject to write about and explain. Certainly can’t rely on images to help explain how my meteorite smells.
But, if I am right, this “meteorite-smell” is what I believe an asteroid would smell like, if you were able to envelope the parent-body in an oxygen atmosphere.
The image above depicts one of my specimens of the Norton County (Aubrite), a fragmental impact-brecciated enstatite achondrite. This image also depicts the plastic bag which contained this meteorite specimen ever since it was first extracted from one of the large masses of Norton County by researchers at University of New Mexico (UNM).
All of the following images are of this same specimen.
“Click” the above image to ENLARGE!!
It is this specimen, as well as, other similar-looking samples that are contained in similar sample bags, that appear to be giving off a peculiar odor. These plastic sample bags seem to have preserved whatever is producing the smell emanating from the meteorite specimens. This odor has been accumulating in these plastice bags undisturbed for what I have been told is “many years”!
Although the geneology is still somewhat sketchy for this fragment, it is clear that this sample was bagged & tagged by UNM Institute of Meteoritics personnel immediately after it was extracted from a large mass of the Norton County meteorite. They labeled the bag with a “Norton County N.15969” catalog number, which can be found on-line on the UNM website for “Institute of Meteoritics (IOM) Meteorite Catalog – Specimen Query Results for NORTON COUNTY (Found 18 February 1948) Kansas, USA.
“Click” the above image to ENLARGE!!
The smell that is being given off by this meteorite is hard to describe. When I first smelt it, I tried to think of the proper words to describe the odor. I tried to think of things that had a similar smell:
like hot metal, or like a cast-iron skillet that has over-heated, or like the metal filaments when you first turn on an electric heater.
Also, a lot like when you make sparks by striking two flint-rocks against each other.
Maybe a little like ozone, but with a more smoky, sulfurous aroma.
That’s when the phrase “burnt gunpowder” came into my mind.
And that’s when I remembered reading that the Apollo astronauts reported that moondust had the strong smell of “spent gunpowder”. They would notice this after conducting EVA and after returning to the Lunar Lander where the moondust that clung to their space-suits had apparently reacted with the oxygen and moisture in the pressurized cabin to produce this odor. I say “apparently” because to this day NASA still does not have an adequate explanation for this phenomenon. But to this very day, astronauts and cosmonauts still remark about the ozone-like smell that lingers on their space-suits after returning from a space-walk outside the ISS.
In fact, an Iranian woman cosmonaut said that “space smells like a burnt almond cookie“!
(Probably each person would have their own, personal description of this odor.)
And NASA is actually trying to recreate this odor in order to train and prepare their future lunar astronauts for when they return to the Moon!
“Click” the above image to ENLARGE!!
Although NASA has yet to provide a proven explanation for how moondust generated this “burnt gunpowder” smell, they have proposed a couple interesting theories:
One explanation is that the Lunar Lander’s oxygen atmosphere literally “burns” the moondust. Because oxygen is very reactive it could actually chemically bond with the moondust. This process is nothing more than oxidation, and is the same thing as “burning”, but it happens too slowly for smoke or flames to be produced, yet the oxidation of moondust might produce an aroma like “burnt gunpowder”.
Another explanation involves how moondust is actually formed. When meteoroids hit the moon, they reduce rocks to jagged dust. This is a process of constant hammering and smashing (see image below).
Over time, molecular bonds in the moondust are broken, producing “dangling bonds” – which are unsatisfied electrical connections that need atomic partners. When astronauts inhaled moondust, what happened was those dangling bonds sought “partners” in the moist membranes of the nose. When this happened, the astronaut’s sense of smell would respond by registering this “chemical reaction” to the brain as being “a strange odor” .
Moondust is formed by pounding; the “hammers” are meteoroids.
Image credit: Prof. Larry Taylor, University of Tennessee.
What all of this has to do with why there is an odor emanating from my Norton County specimens is this:
I see a connection between – how the pulverizing of moonrock by meteoroids produces this odor in moondust – with the brecciation and production of impact melt in the parent body of the Norton County meteorite!
I found that this odor was only prevalent in the most brecciated specimens where dark-colored impact melt had infused with the light-colored breccia clasts of the enstatite achondrite.
What this means is that this odor (along with the brecciation) is an ancient record of the impact event that occurred on that planetary body.
This means that these meteorite specimens are also samples of the same odors from space that, up until now, only astronauts were able to smell.
This is all made possible because of:
the large size of the individual masses from the Norton County fall, as well as
the prompt recovery of these masses from this fall, and more importantly
the prompt placement of the brecciated specimens into plastic bags.
All of this served to protect this “odor” and to minimize its contact with atmospheric moisture and oxygen.
“Click” the above image to ENLARGE!!
I feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity to “smell space”!
I found it difficult, but I’ve tried to convey in words what it is that I am personally experiencing when I smell my specimens. But this experience would be unique for each person, and probably would be described differently and uniquely by each person.
Although this smell emanating from my Norton County specimens is the result of the brecciation of an enstatite achondrite, I doubt that the pulverized anorthosite on the moon has a much different smell. So, I feel that I now have something in common with the NASA astronauts and can better appreciate, if not their visual and aural, at least their nasal experiences while they were on the moon and while traveling thru space.
Search Results – for “astronauts smell gunpowder odor”
- Apr 5, 2010 … It’s nothing like gunpowder. So why the smell? No one knows. … Apollo astronauts were specific. Moondust smells like burnt gunpowder.) …
- Jan 30, 2006 … Apollo astronauts were specific. Moondust smells like burnt gunpowder.) Curiously, back on Earth, moondust has no smell. …
www.universetoday.com/11314/the-smell-of-moondust/ – Cached
- Apr 23, 2010 … So this might produce this burning gunpowder smell. … Jack Schmitt, an Apollo 17 astronaut and geologist, has the distinction of being the …
www.todayifoundout.com/…/moon-dust-smells-like-spent-gunpowder/ – Cached
- Apollo astronauts were specific. Moondust smells like burnt gunpowder.) Curiously, back on Earth, moondust has no smell. There are hundreds of pounds of …
www.bigfishtackle.mobi/cgi-bin/bigfish.cgi?post=241370 – Cached
- Jan 31, 2006 … (Note: Burnt and unburnt gunpowder do not smell the same. Apollo astronauts were specific. Moondust smells like burnt gunpowder.) …
www.redorbit.com/news/space/375271/the…smell_of…/index.html – Cached
- Jan 28, 2004 … I’ve read that the Apollo astronauts smelled something from moondust: … the initial smell, was a smell like gunpowder a little bit. …
ask.metafilter.com/4967/Space-the-final-frontier-of-smells – Cached
- 6 posts – 6 authors – Last post: Sep 9, 2006
I happen to be in the group liking the smell of burnt gunpowder. … where the author stated that the Apollo 11 astronauts were armed. …
lofi.forum.physorg.com/Smell-of-Gunpowder_4813.html – Cached
- Oct 3, 2006 … Almost 34 years ago, Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan succinctly summed up the scent of moondust: “It smells like spent gunpowder. …
www.retrothing.com/2006/10/the_smell_of_mo.html – Cached
- Almost 34 years ago, Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan succinctly summed up the scent of moondust: “It smells like spent gunpowder.” It turns out that the …
www.retrothing.com/space/page/2/ – Cached
- Feb 20, 2008 … The smell is probably a combination of stuff that has been outgassed by … One of the Apollo astronauts (I forget which one) said that when the … told is sort of like a mix of gunpowder and alcohol or maybe gasoline. …
boingboing.net/2008/02/20/astronaut-describes.html – Cached – Similar
- 11 posts – 5 authors – Last post: May 18, 2004
P.S.: Actually, I always sort of liked the smell of “spent gunpowder” from a shotgun; it’s a very unique odor (I used to accompany my father …
www.newmars.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=2925 – Cached
- Sep 28, 2006 … I was thrown for a minute, because A. Space would have no smell, at least not one that the human nose could detect and B. If it … Well, the Apollo astronauts reported that fresh moon dust smells like burned gunpowder. …
althouse.blogspot.com/…/space-smells-like-burned-almond-cookie.html – Cached
- While it gives off an unpleasant odor and can stir up a headache, … several Apollo astronauts noticed they had tracked back into their … the smell was likened to wet ashes in a fireplace, even spent gunpowder from a just fired …
www.rense.com/general50/stinks.htm – Cached – Similar
- 31 posts – 6 authors – Last post: Sep 6, 2009
Re: Astronaut Says He Wasn’t Prepared for Smell of Space, Quote. The Apollo crews spoke of the Moon smelling like gunpowder. Gunpowder is a …
www.godlikeproductions.com/forum1/message874737/pg1 – Cached
It is a hall of fame PLUS an extensive collection of Astronaut … (carried back on Apollo 15); and some unappetizing examples of Soviet space food. … “Moon Smell” display, which attempts to recreate the gunpowder odor of moon dust. …
- Aug 29, 2010 … “It has that taste — to me, [of] gunpowder — and the smell of … Schmitt says, “All of the Apollo astronauts were used to handling guns. …
www.allmetalforums.com/forums/showthread.php?p=672448 – Cached
- All of the Apollo astronauts said moondust smell like burnt gunpowder. Curiously, back on Earth, moondust has no smell. There are hundreds of pounds of …
www.fogonazos.es/2007/11/top-10-coolest-facts-about-space.html – Cached
- Mar 29, 2009 … Buy Apollo Tyres With Target Of Rs 81 · Sensex Gains 116 Pts In Noon … According to ex-NASA astronaut Thomas Jones, a veteran of three … adding that the smell is also similar to burnt gunpowder or the ozone smell of electrical equipment. … The suit smells like plastic inside,” he added. …
www.topnews.in/smell-space-funny-say-discovery-pilots-2145051 – Cached
- Mar 26, 2007 … Apollo astronaut Eugene Cernan, after an encounter with lunar dust. … Some astronauts reported smells of caldron, a gunpowder sort of smell, as soon as they went … they started smelling these oxidation type smells. …
www.astrobio.net/interview/2281/dust-busting-lunar-style – Cached
- Oct 18, 2008 … “We have a few clues as to what space smells like. …. The moon also had a smell, as reported by the Apollo astonauts…like spent …
- No, Apollo astronauts used special rakes to collect Moon dirt. … And it has a smell very few people, if any, have smelled on the Earth. It smells something like spent gunpowder, like you’ve just fired a shotgun or something and you …
www.eduplace.com/science/hmsc/3/d/…/cktcontent_3d.shtml – Cached – Similar
- Jul 11, 2010 … All that’s missing from this lunar experience is that gunpowder–smell of regolith the Apollo astronauts reported when they returned to their …
www.pars3c.com/2010/07/11/review-moonbase-alpha/ – Cached
- Feb 15, 2008 … (Note: Burnt and unburnt gunpowder do not smell the same. Apollo astronauts were specific. Moondust smells like burnt gunpowder.) …
uforeview.tripod.com/conspiracyjournal456.html – Cached
- According to Apollo astronauts, it smells a lot like gunpowder. … Once their helmets and gloves … Natural Gas Odor Smell. Popular Question Categories …
uk.ask.com/qotd?…smell… – United Kingdom – Cached
- Jun 5, 2010 … Moon dust is said to smell like spent gunpowder.g … Only 12 people have been on the moon: the astronauts on the Apollo missions from 1969 to 1972.h … g “The Mysterious Smell of Moondust.” NASA. January 30, 2006. …
Search Results – for “odor from meteorites”
- I love the smell of meteorite strikes in the morning. Gasoline Alley, 7/27/07. For the last several years — or, oh, let’s say decades — Gasoline Alley has …
joshreads.com/?p=1179 – Cached
- Re: [meteorite-list] Carancas: Arsenic smell ? Dave Gheesling Thu, 19 Mar 2009 21:35:27 -0700. Darren/All, The thinner atmosphere on Mars — and the lower …
www.mail-archive.com/meteorite-list@meteoritecentral…/msg72338.html – Cached
- Re: [meteorite-list] Carancas: Arsenic smell ? Jeff Kuyken Thu, 19 Mar 2009 23:12:12 -0700. Hi Dave,. I believe fusion crust is created not only by the heat …
www.mail-archive.com/meteorite-list@meteoritecentral…/msg72344.html – Cached
- Sep 24, 2007 … He said it’s highly unlikely for a meteorite to smell like lead or silver. These substances exist in meteorites in negligible amounts, …
en.rian.ru/analysis/20070924/80570359.html – Cached
- Aug 23, 2010 … Yep, I’ve played with meteorites of all types and whilst they are insanely cool, they don’t smell of sulfur. In fact they don’t smell at all …
forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2010/08/23/welsh_roswell/ – Cached
- Apr 2, 2009… stones were found they were still warm and had a smoky, aromatic smell. … The smoky aroma hinted that there was more to this meteorite …
www.science20.com/…/murchison_meteorite_what_fireball_over_australia_might_tell_us_about_origin_life – Cached
- Sep 3, 2009 … In fact, if you were to cut open a piece of Abee meteorite, you would like encounter a smell that is like discharged gun powder; …
www.lifeinfozone.com/…/is-the-abee-meteorite-a-remnant-from-mercury/ – Cached
- Guerlain Meteorites Giant Butterfly Pearls – W 2008 was rated 4.7 out of … I love the smell and I think the container is pretty when sitting on my vanity. …
- He commented that the air had a “strong smell of iron”. The meteorite appears to be an ordinary chondrite with both primary and secondary fusion crust. …
www.sott.net/…/210962-Brazil-Meteor-Fireball-Produces-Meteorites – Cached
- Rock fragments showered an eight square-mile area, and local residents reported a smell of sulphur. As with Iowa’s other meteorites, fragments now are …
www.igsb.uiowa.edu/Browse/meteor/meteor.htm – Cached
- 12 posts – 7 authors – Last post: Nov 26, 2005
She emphasised the smell and characterised it as a little like the smell … Ordinary small meteorites, maybe up to a metre or two in size …
www.popastro.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=1449 – Cached – Similar
- Apr 24, 2010 … Another lifeguard, Yossi Mizrahi, said: “The meteorite kept on burning and gave off an odd smell. It kept on burning even when we put it in …
www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3880008,00.html – Cached
- Sep 18, 2007 … That sounds more like a volcanic vent than a meteorite. A volcanic vent would explain the smell and other symptoms. …
www.dvorak.org/…/meteorite-is-making-people-sick-in-a-peruvian-village/ – Cached
Video: Fiery Meteorite Falls on Israeli Beach
Another lifeguard, Yossi Mizrahi, said: “The meteorite kept on burning and gave off an odd smell. It kept on burning even when we put it in the water and it melted seashells as if they were candles.”
Dream comes true with meteorite find
Kevin Meade – July 14, 2006 – Verified: David Elliott with the 17kg meteorite
It took him more than two years to locate them, but the two meteorites western Queensland grazier David Elliott found on his property are further proof that he has an uncanny knack for spotting rare rocks.
My previous articles can be found *HERE*
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