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Thread: Explosions in space/vacuum

  1. #1 Explosions in space/vacuum 
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    Hello all

    I am new around here, but I thought I would kick off with something I have been thinking about for quite a while.

    Now we have all seen movies with comets that need to be blown up by nuclear bombs and so on. Now that got me thinking, how would and explosion behave in space or a vacuum?

    Obviously, space is very different than a vacuum, because the effect of zero gravity will massively affect the explosion and debris, but this is more of a question to how the explosion actually damages an object.
    Now if we take a normal bomb with TNT or C4 or whatever, the explosion or shock wave, is air rapidly moving away from the expanding gasses of the explosive material, and that is what actually destroys objects.
    Now how is that going to happen when there is no air to push?

    The US and Russia tested nuclear bombs at high altitude in the 1960's, but none were truly in outer space, and I haven't been able to find a single piece of theoretical work on this subject.
    The Starfish nuclear test that the US carried out in the 60's, obviously has little or no date available to the public - and this test was the one carried out at the highest altitude.

    Other space explosions like supernovas can destroy planets etc. but here there is massive amounts of material being blasted in to space along with radiation, but if a nuclear bomb was detonated in space, there wouldn't be much material to go flying, apart from the core and bomb itself.

    The heat from a nuclear bomb would for sure create a fireball because of the material undergoing fission, but the heat would radiate out into space extremely quickly.

    I think it's an interesting topic, so what are peoples thoughts on this and how would a bomb exploding in space or a vacuum actually destroy something?


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  3. #2  
    Moderator Moderator Markus Hanke's Avatar
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    Presumably you would plant the bomb inside the comet, meteroid or whatever else it is you are trying to destroy. So in essence you would first have to drill a shaft and lower the bomb into it. The shockwave would then travel through the material instead of through air.


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  4. #3  
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    That was my though as well, but how exactly do shockwaves move through a vacuum when there is almost no material to transfer the shockwaves?
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  5. #4  
    Comet Dust Collector Moderator
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    If it's inside the comet, it travels through the comet material. Even in a vacuum, rock and ice transmit sound (pressure waves). There would be an expanding cloud of material from the explosion.
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  6. #5  
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    Obviously the energy will travel thru radiation. But the power of the radiation shouldn't be underestimated; it is strong enough to instantly vaporise any unprotected human being near the explosion. Ie: In Hiroshima you could see a silhouette of a man on the ground: an example of instant vaporization.
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  7. #6  
    Comet Dust Collector Moderator
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    In the case of an explosion inside a comet, the energy would travel through pressure, expanding ejecta, and radiation.
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  8. #7  
    Forum Ph.D. stander-j's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris-RR View Post
    Hello all

    I am new around here, but I thought I would kick off with something I have been thinking about for quite a while.

    Now we have all seen movies with comets that need to be blown up by nuclear bombs and so on. Now that got me thinking, how would and explosion behave in space or a vacuum?

    The heat from a nuclear bomb would for sure create a fireball because of the material undergoing fission, but the heat would radiate out into space extremely quickly.
    Just an interesting little remark:

    Turns out it can be just as, if not more, dangerous to blow up an object heading for Earth depending on its distance. At least, that's what an 'expert' said on Coast to Coast AM the other night. If you're wondering why I used quotation marks around 'expert' and don't know what Coast to Coast AM is... Just google it, you'll find your answer quickly.
    "Cultivated leisure is the aim of man."
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