November 2009

Hydrogen Sulfide

Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) was first reported in 1972 by Thaddeus et al. using the 12 meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory. At the time, they searched for a single low-lying rotational transition at 168.7 GHz and found it in sources such as Orion A, W51, and the DR21(OH) region. They estimated the abundance of hydrogen sulfide to be similar to that of formaldehyde. Various subsequent papers reported additional detections of H2S using the same single line, although Minh et al. also found the 34S isotope analog to the 168.7 GHz line at 167.9 GHz. The assignment of further lines to H2S evidently waited until the 2005 large molecular line survey of Comito et al.

Hydrogen sulfide was detected in Comet Austin in 1991 by Bockelee-Morvan et al., while the species was identified by Eberhardt in Comet Haley from later analysis of data from the Giotto probe that passed through the comet's coma. Roesler et al. discussed the evidence for hydrogen sulfide on Io, but they found it to be ambiguous.

Unlike many of the exotic molecules found in space, hydrogen sulfide is a well-known terrestrial molecule, best known for its noxious and poisonous odor, which is associated with rotten eggs, sewage, and even flatulence.

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