Blowing up Jupiter - revisited.

Ok physics and astronomy maestros. I know this has been answered here before quite a number of times, always with the answer it cannot be done. But I have been obsessed with the idea since reading 2010 as a lad, and do not want to let go.

I understand that Jupiter is at least 10x to small for a spontaneous fusion chain reaction. And I understand hydrogen will not burn without oxygen.

But, i have read that layers of deuterium may well, exist fairly close to the surface. And that 2/3 of the planet is composed of metallic liquid hydrogen. And that some cold fusion is already naturally occurring.

So it still seems to me the the thing is a big hydrogen bomb awaiting a trigger. And a nuke submerged deep could do something. But I got a D+ in physics the first go around, so come here where smarter souls dwell.

So, I guess the question hinges on the nature of metallic hydrogen.

Also, on the off chance anyone does think a significant reaction is at all possible:…Would it just a large isolated explosion? Any chance of sustained fusion if the core got hot enough? Affects on Io, Europa …and Earth. Much thanks to any responses.

Hydrogen in a star isn’t “burning”. When you combine hydrogen with oxygen, it makes water in a simple chemical reaction. That is NOT what happens inside stars.

Inside a star, two hydrogen atoms fuse together to create a single helium atom (there are other types of fusion as well). No oxygen is required. This is a nuclear fusion reaction, not a simple chemical reaction.

In order for fusion to occur, you need a lot of heat and a lot of pressure. It’s not just heat alone. You need to squish the hydrogen atoms together so that they will fuse together.

The problem you run into is that the fusion reaction itself then generates energy, and that energy tends to push away the hydrogen surrounding it. Then your reaction stops. This is what would happen on Jupiter.

The only way to sustain the reaction is to have so much hydrogen that gravity keeps squishing it together stronger than the fusion reaction in the middle keeps pushing it apart. To do that, you need a lot more mass.

If you detonated a hydrogen bomb inside the core of Jupiter, you’d make a hole. Then, since you’ve just blown away everything around the bomb, the reaction would stop. Considering how huge Jupiter is, you wouldn’t even know anything happened by looking at it from the outside. It would be a rather boring event.

Jupiter isn’t big enough to be a great big hydrogen bomb waiting to happen. Any time you try to start a big kablooey, the reaction would just fizzle out and stop. Jupiter is very stable in its un-explodey-ness. You could blow up bomb after bomb after bomb, and each time it would just fizzle out. There’s just not enough mass there to keep squishing everything together to keep the reaction going.

Thanks for breaking it down… So a fission bomb would cause fusion in nearby deuterium/metallic hydrogen, but the blast would clear away the fuel needed for a sustained reaction, leading to a fizzle. The bomb would be greatly amplified by Jupiter’s composition, but would still basically end up extinguishing itself. Correct? Thanks again, makes sense to me know.

I no longer feel the need to become President in order to try it.

Gravity drives the stars by forcing them to fuse hydrogen and release energy to stay in approximate hydrostatic equilibrium. Since Jupiter’s gravity is not intense enough, its core is happy to lie complacently, knowing that its physical compressive strength alone is enough to resist gravity. No need for fireworks to keep gravity at bay.

If you could somehow compress Jupiter symmetrically, at some point gravity will be strong enough to cause the core to ignite hydrogen fusion. Jupiter will then become a tiny dwarf star, but still not explode like a bomb. AND you’d have to keep applying the compression or it will fizzle out.

Which, bringing it back to the OP, is what happened in 2010 (approximately speaking).

Clarke kind of hand-waved the “fizzle out” part away.

Just to clarify, nobody mentioned fission, just fusion.

Fission is when a big atom (like uranium) breaks apart into two smaller ones. As far as I know, this generally doesn’t happen in stars (at least, it’s not a source of energy for stars.)

Other than that, you’re correct. Jupiter isn’t big enough to have enough pressure to force the hydrogen together so that it won’t blow a big hole. It would have to be at least 75 times Jupiter’s mass to be the smallest a star could be (or more, depending on composition).

On a side note, would blowing up Jupiter be illegal under the laws of any country, either with or without intent to intimidate or harm any person? E.g. if a US citizen blew up Jupiter, intending thereby to intimidate Congress into passing a certain law, would that person have violated any terrorism laws?

That certainly sounds like extortion, though that has little to do with the use of Jupiter per se.

Not sure about, Jupiter itself, but I am sure even thinking of launching a nuke must violate some provision of the Patriot Act.

The fission would come from the nuclear weapon. And I was thinking more of brown dwarf rather than star. But yeah, not enough mass…

The Outer Space Treaty specifically addresses the placement and use of nuclear weapons in space: Outer Space Treaty - Wikipedia

Heh… there’s even a clause that a country is liable for damage caused by their space objects. So now we need a thread to calculate the value of Jupiter. :slight_smile:

lol. The result would probably be different depending on whether it was calculated by Terrans or Jovians.

I took that scene where there are monoliths multiplying on Jupiter while it is shrinking, to mean that the monoliths were adding the required mass needed to compress and ignite it as a star.


Some people think NASA is already trying to turn Jupiter (or maybe Saturn) into a star:

Perhaps if one can send compression waves somehow (sound) though it and cause interference patterns, it could start little fusion points where the wave amplification is, and that might continue for some times but I would expect if it were possible it would also damp out over time, though perhaps the fusion may amplify the waves.

Now how you actually go about creating these pressure waves large enough to cause such interference patterns, Well I don’t think thermonukes are enough, except in a very small area (much like how we use A-bombs to set off a H-Bomb).

Wasn’t that decided by the Supreme Court in The United States v. Lex Luthor?

The problem with a “spot fusion” approach is that the damn thing release energy, which leads to expansion which decreases the likelihood of further fusion. Stellar mass objects continue to fuse because the energy release expansion is balanced against gravitational collapse.

Ah, yes. But is an explosive device always necessarily a weapon?

We blow up rocks all the time on Earth to facilitate mineral extraction. I suppose our Evil Agent could claim he (why is it *always *a he? :)) was using nukes to rearrange Jupiter’s parts into a more convenient structure for mining valuable materials and energy. :smiley:

It obstructs my view of Saturn.

Then you’d better plan a program that will get you re-elected for a second term. Because you probably can’t get a bomb-carrying rocket to land on Jupiter in a single term.

You don’t need to get it all the way there. You just need to launch it, and then count on it mysteriously not responding to the abort command once your successor is in office.