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B Can Jupiter be ignited?

  1. Nov 12, 2017 #1
    First let me make clear that I am not a student in Physics. I have a BA in Anthropology and a BS in Computer Science. My only background in Astronomy and Astrophysics is as a fan. The sort that has watched lots of Discovery Channel-likeTV shows over the years. I'm now 61.

    The reason that I joined this forum is to get a question answered.

    People here might be aware of the current conspiracy theory running rampant on YouTube of there being a brown dwarf system within our solar system (Niburu/Nemesis/Planet X/etc.). I'm not here to debate on whether or not it exists - I myself am reserving final judgment until we have real, solid evidence - rather than photos of sun dogs, lens flares, and red clouds. (BTW - Even when you give scientific explanations to people that debunk their "evidence" they will still refuse to believe you. I think they prefer the fun of believing in their titillating pet theories more than hearing the truth - after all, the truth spoils all their fun. Sad, but true. I've given up on the "look at my picture of Niburu!" group. Evidence, logic, and reason mean nothing to them.)

    I would like a question answered about something that has just come to my attention from what is, to me, the newest bit of this particular conspiracy theory.

    I just watched a video where someone conjectured that the Nov. 13th conjunction of Jupiter and Venus would ignite Jupiter. Personally, even as an amateur, I don't see how this could happen if just Jupiter and Venus are involved - they are just too far apart physically and there needs to be something that would trigger an ignition.

    So, just for grins, lets think about what might happen if this brown dwarf system actually were within our solar system. Could this possibly be something that could trigger an ignition of Jupiter?

    I have seen claims that this red dwarf will impact Jupiter. There are also others that say that it will impact earth - or at least pass close enough by to have devastating effects.

    I just got finished reading a thread from this forum from 2010 titled Possibility of igniting Jupiter where I had hoped to get some insight into my questions. I joined this forum so that I could post my questions there, but it's closed, so I started this thread.

    To be clear, I'm not asking about Jupiter becoming a star - just about it igniting.

    I learned in that other forum that in order for Jupiter to have a significant ignition that it would require an oxidizer. And in order for that ignition to be of any significance, it would require a very significant oxidizer source.

    Would a brown dwarf contain enough of a source of oxidizer to cause a significant combustion event? If so, would a collision be enough to trigger that ignition? What could we expect the resulting explosion to be like? What would it look like from earth? What would the effects be on earth?

    When confronting wild theories like these, I like to arm my self with scientific information. I may still fail to make a dent in their beliefs, but I can at least say I tried.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 12, 2017 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    This is a measure of how ignorant some people can be. If the person making this conjecture isn't just trolling, he or she must be ignorant of the meaning of the term "conjunction," and that it has everything to do with the two planets having either the same right ascension or the same ecliptic longitude, usually as observed from Earth, but little to do with how close together they are.
  4. Nov 12, 2017 #3

    stefan r

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    If you mean fusion then no. Jupiter does not have enough pressure to sustain fusion.

    If you look up at the sky you might see a meteor. During meteor showers the likelihood is much higher. A meteoriod is often made out of rock. The bright streak is just the energy released by gravity and the collision air molecules. The energy released is much higher than any chemical reaction.

    Throwing a one ton tank of oxidizer into a dense hydrogen atmosphere would not look much different from throwing one ton of anything into Jupiter's atmosphere. Oxygen will react with hydrogen eventually which will become water. At extremely high temperature hydrogen and oxygen separate. When shoemaker levy 9 impacted Jupiter the temperature 24,000K (42,700F) was measured. Much hotter than you could possibly achieve with a torch.

    Almost all brown dwarfs will be made out of hydrogen same as Jupiter.
  5. Nov 12, 2017 #4


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    No. Jupiter cannot be ignited without changing its makeup so drastically that it would no longer be the same planet. You would either need to increase its mass by about 75x to generate sustained nuclear fusion in its core, or add huge amounts of something like oxygen so that the hydrogen has something to chemically react with. Either way this would not be the same planet.
  6. Nov 12, 2017 #5
    She is aware that the two planets are not physically next to each other. Her conclusions have nothing to do with logic - she is just coming to a conclusion because it fits with her beliefs. She's not trolling, she sincerely believes what she is saying.

    Do you have any answers to my questions for me?
  7. Nov 12, 2017 #6


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    Hi Beth

    welcome to PF :smile:

    don't even bother wasting your time ..... On PF we don't even allow discussion of conspiracy theories because of that very reason :smile:

    that's right, they are too far apart, As Mark44 said, a conjunction is just that they appear close together from our point of view.
    so we will leave that at that :wink:

    Well about the largest thing we have seen so far crash into Jupiter was the fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 some years back
    The explosions of the largest of the fragments produced multi-megaton sized blasts and yet all that hydrogen and other volatile gas
    still didn't ignite notably immediately outside the impact zone.

    as far as a brown dwarf goes .... have a read about them here on wiki ......


  8. Nov 12, 2017 #7


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    No, a brown dwarf doesn't contain a relevant amount of an oxidizer -- and think about it: if it did, it would ignite its own hydrogen!
  9. Nov 12, 2017 #8
    stefan r and Drakkith: I am not talking about fusion. I am just talking about an explosion of some sort. It doesn't have to involve the entire planet.

    From what people are saying, they expect that there is a significant amount of iron oxide associated with this object. Either from the dwarf star itself, or from the objects orbiting it.

    If this is true, it would be a source of an oxidizer - the iron oxide. And I think that there would be lot more involved than a ton or two.

    If there is a very high amount of iron oxide associated with this object, would a collision with Jupiter cause an explosion of some sort?

    davenn: I
    'm not trying to drag any conspiracy theories into this, it's just that a conspiracy theory triggered questions in me. I don't want conspiracy theory answers - I want scientifically based answers.

    I have already seen the Wikipedia article article on brown dwarfs, including this accompanying image comparing the sizes of Jupiter and a brown dwarf.


    It seems to me that a collision of an object of that size with Jupiter is going to be a bit more dramatic than the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 event.

    What could we expect the resulting collision be like? What would it look like from earth? What would the effects be on earth?

    And, if the dwarf star itself didn't impact Jupiter, but something that was orbiting it did, what would that impart be like? Again, I'm not talking about a comet-sized mass I'm talking about either a planetary body or perhaps a massive cloud of iron oxide-rich debris.

    Please understand me - I'm not trying to support a conspiracy theory, I'm trying to DEBUNK it.

    All I want is an honest, scientific answer.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 13, 2017
  10. Nov 12, 2017 #9


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    We have real, solid evidence that all these conspiracy theories are nonsense.

    A red dwarf is much more massive than Jupiter (it would also appear at least as bright as it - impossible to miss in the sky). It wouldn't be a red dwarf crashing into Jupiter, it would be Jupiter crashing into the red dwarf, probably without a large effect on the red dwarf.

    See above, the energy released in chemical reactions (even if they would happen) would be tiny compared to the gravitational potential energy that gets released in a collision. This also means there cannot be an explosion in the way explosives on Earth work, because that would go against the gravitational attraction. A small amount of material would get ejected, but most would just stay in the now slightly more massive red dwarf.

    Ignore this nonsense - it is a waste of time to listen to it.
  11. Nov 12, 2017 #10
    Okay then, forget the whole combustion based question.

    It doesn't matter if you think this dwarf system is there or not - I am asking a legitimate question.

    What would happen if either a dwarf star or something from it's orbit impacted Jupiter?
  12. Nov 12, 2017 #11


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    If a brown dwarf (or larger object) got very close to the planet (it doesn't even need to impact it), the planet would be ripped apart into a large cloud of gas and dust from tidal forces.
  13. Nov 12, 2017 #12

    stefan r

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    There are computer simulation videos about the collision that formed earth's moon. Here is one on youtube.

    It is worth pointing out that the odds are extremely low. But the odds of a near miss are higher than a contact. A brown dwarf could change the orbit. Jupiter's orbit will change the orbits of all other planets. A brown dwarf would also throw a lot of asteroids into new orbits.
  14. Nov 12, 2017 #13
    Drakkith and stefan r: THANK YOU!

    That was all I wanted - answers.

    So let me continue then. If this near-miss were to happen and Jupiter were ripped apart, what would it look like to someone here on earth?
  15. Nov 12, 2017 #14


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    Probably just a bright point of light if the breakup of Jupiter heats up all that gas and dust. Otherwise, it probably wouldn't look like anything unless you had a telescope.
  16. Nov 13, 2017 #15
    Wow! Really?

    The largest planet in our solar system blows up and and it's hardly a blip in the night sky?

    How disappointing! I thought that it'd be more spectacular than that. I mean, wouldn't it continue to expand? Wouldn't the sun reflect off all that stuff and make it visible from earth eventually? Maybe I've watched too many scifi movies, but I was expecting something much more dramatic than something you'd need a telescope to see. I guess I was thinking something more along the lines of when the Klingon moon Praxis blew up. And that was just a moon, not a gas giant!

    It seems almost sad that the King of Planets gets demolished and no one would hardly notice.

    At least until the other planets in the solar system started to change their orbits. like stefan r said. Stefan also said that the asteroids would also be thrown into new orbits. Can I assume that earth might then experience a deluge of asteroid impacts?
  17. Nov 13, 2017 #16


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    Well, it's not really blowing up. It's just getting torn apart. It might be brighter than I thought, but there won't be any explosion.

    I hadn't thought about that to be honest. Yes, I'd expect something resembling a comet's tail to appear, though I don't know how large it would appear or how bright.

    I don't know what the Klingons were using to generate power on that moon, but Jupiter certainly has none of it. :biggrin:

    Unlikely. We might eventually catch a few, but I wouldn't call it a "deluge". It's actually really hard to have collisions between objects in space. The distances between them are so much larger than their sizes that it's very unlikely that a collision will occur.
  18. Nov 13, 2017 #17
    But isn't earth hit multiple times every day? We see shooting stars all the time. We go through meteor showers all the time. We hear of news-worthy impacts multiple times a year. We go though near-misses several times a year. There are a LOT of objects buzzing around out there in in our solar system. I know this from watching non-scifi space TV shows. I know this from keeping an eye on spaceweather.com.

    And wouldn't Jupiter being torn apart send debris shooting out in all directions? Wouldn't that push through the asteroid belt, throwing many of them out of their orbit, along the ecliptic plane, and towards earth?

    I'm sorry to keep pursuing this, but you seem to be saying that the largest planet in out solar system being torn apart would be pretty much a non-event. I just can't see how that can be true. I don't know the science, but such an event MUST have significant impact on not only earth, but the entire solar system! How can it not?
  19. Nov 13, 2017 #18


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    By tiny dust grains, sure. That's because there are enormous numbers of them out in space. But the "big" things are far fewer.

    Almost all of these are something around pebble-size or smaller.

    Oh? The number of news-worthy impacts I've ever heard about in my life can be counted on one hand. And it technically wasn't an impact since it exploded in the atmosphere.

    Sure, but the near-misses far outnumber the actual impacts of comparably sized objects.

    No, not necessarily. Remember that Jupiter is already moving in its orbit. Most of the gas and dust might continue moving in this orbit with only a small amount of deviation. I haven't done any math so I can't say with any certainty how much would be sent outwards into wildly different orbits. I expect that it depends heavily on the details of the object that Jupiter interacts with.

    Depending on the exact details of what happens, there could be a devastating change in our orbit, or we could see almost no effect in the near to moderate future. Both possibilities exist, as do many others.
  20. Nov 13, 2017 #19
    You are wrong about the appearance of a brown dwarf. Brown dwarfs are very dim and cool compared with stars and they are too cool to radiate visible light. I know that this doesn't make them invisible, no more than any of the planets in our solar system are invisible. They are visible to us because of the reflected light from the sun. But, many brown dwarfs have been discovered embedded in large clouds of gas and dust. This would mean that they would be invisible to the naked eye. Which is exactly why infrared telescopes are used to detect them. Since infrared radiation can penetrate through the dusty regions of space, brown dwarfs can be discovered by infrared telescopes, even deep within thick clouds.

    Look people. I came here to ask a legitimate question.

    You must have missed the part in my initial post where I said that I spent time debunking supposed evidence of Niburu. You must have also missed the part where I said I was asking these questions "just for grins". In other words, I am asking out of curiosity. I am not promoting the Niburu conspiracy theory, as it seems everyone is assuming.

    I thought that I would be talking to people with a scientific background who's education included learning to divorce emotions and personal prejudices from science. But I guess I forgot that scientists are people too, and some people are incapable of separating their emotions and prejudices from anything else in their lives, including supposed scientists.

    If you people cannot do this in order to give me the answers I am seeking, then I came to the wrong place to ask a legitimate science question.

    And since this forum caters to students, this makes me fear for the future of this world - far more than the possibility of a hypothetical Niburu makes me fear for our future.

    I know that Drakkith has been giving me some answers, but I can't help feeling that even he is holding back and editing what info he gives me.

    I may not have an astrophysics educational back ground, but something tells me that something with the mass of Jupiter (2.5 times more massive than all of the other planets in our Solar System combined) being torn apart will NOT be a the non-event that Drakkith is saying it would be.

    These are not the actions of true scientists. Scientists are supposed to be above such things. They are supposed to be the purveyors of truth. They are not supposed to manipulate and hold back on the truth.
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2017
  21. Nov 13, 2017 #20
    The staff is doing an admirable job of answering your question(s), why would you want to take an argumentative stance and have your thread locked? that seems rather counterproductive. o_O
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