Possibility of igniting Jupiter

  1. Now I know the chance that self ignition of Jupiter has less chances than a snowball has to survive in hell. Have there been however serious studies towards the possibility or impossibility of triggering ignition? If the density (Lawson's criterion) and chemical composition (not too many heavier elements) are right, maybe a certain layer could be ignited? Just out of interest.
  2. jcsd
  3. tony873004

    tony873004 1,562
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    A planet is not like a dry forest, waiting for a spark to cause a forest fire. Celestial objects ignite (become a star) when the pressures are high enough for fusion.

    If we could just toss a match on Jupiter, it would already be burning. Comet Shomaker-Levy 9 would have done the trick in 1994 (as well as millions or even billions of other things that have slammed into Jupiter over its lifetime).
  4. chroot

    chroot 10,426
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    Stars don't "burn" via chemical combustion, they sustain nuclear fusion with high temperatures and pressures.

    Jupiter has about 1% of the mass it would need to support nuclear fusion.

    - Warren
  5. SpaceTiger

    SpaceTiger 2,977
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    I think that would require a very dramatic event -- the conditions inside of Jupiter aren't very close to those needed for nuclear fusion. The part of the planet where most of the action takes place (the surface) is far, far too low density. Interestingly, though, the surface of a white dwarf can undergo spontaneous nuclear fusion as a result of accretion from a binary partner. This is the explanation for some kinds of novae.
  6. Astronuc

    Staff: Mentor

    Mass is too small to sustain a fusion reaction, as others have mentioned.

    Any initiated fusion reaction (via a manmade fusion device) would be quickly quenched.
  7. What if you detnated a nuclear weapon in the atmosphere?I heard some stuff about that.
  8. Funny that, because when comet Shomaker levy 9 was about to slam into Jupiter, there were rumors going around that the whole planet could explode, so I asked a science teacher at my school whether it was a possibility, and the answer I got was that because of the combustible gases in the atmosphere it was a possibility. Hmmm, it amazes me how people can ignore simple facts, in this case that there have been millions of past impacts.
  9. Chronos

    Chronos 9,999
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    Your observation was well reasoned, Vast. Jupiter would have long ago ignited were it remotely capable of sustaining a fusion reaction. The combustible gasses thing is a non-starter. Combustion is a conventional chemical reaction which requires an oxidizer [e.g., oxygen]. A comet composed of pure oxygen would make for some fireworks, but, they would be short lived. The oxygen would be expended in short order. As Einstein observed, physics works pretty much the same everywhere in the universe.
  10. what about titan? I heard that if there was just a little free oxygen in Titans atmosphere, it would be possible to light its Natural Gas seas with a single match
  11. DaveC426913

    DaveC426913 16,245
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    1] Planets with atmospheres have meteor showers, and often have lightning. If anything were going to ignite, it would have by now.

    2] We have free oxygen here on Earth, and we have combustible materials (or at least oxidizable materials) such as, oh say, iron. What do we get? We get iron oxide. Chemical reactions don't wait for some catclysmic event, they happen over time. If anyting were gonig to oxidize, it already has.
  12. Phobos

    Phobos 2,020
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    Ditto for the plunge of the Galileo Spacecraft into Jupiter even more recently.
  13. russ_watters

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    You wouldn't even see it from Earth. Each of the SL-9 comet fragments unleashed an explosion larger than all the nuclear weapons on Earth combined. And Jupiter is still Jupiter.
  14. No, its impossible for a natural cause to ignite a jupier size ball of gas. Yet you could turn other things "on". I was reading the book- Entering Space- and it made a valuable point.
    Jupiter you must first kno,w releases energy that it first got from when it was forming. Any object bigger then Jupiter would have energy that would simply remane with it for nearly ever. Yet heres the light switch part.
    If Humans had enough money we could simply build giant mirrors about .001 microns thick, and place them over key jupiter hot spots. These mirrors force the energy coming from jupiter back onto Jupiter, while taking sunlight and moving its energy onto Jupiter. Yet this cannot work because of Jupiters Sizes. Yet a brown dwarf size object could do this simply. The only problem is getting a brown dwarf close to another energy source with out them eating eahc other.

  15. The combustible seas of titan are mostly methane right? What's the estimated temperature of those seas? If you can't raise the temperature high enough, you aren't going to have the energy to break apart existing bonds. I'm thinking even if you had an arbitrary unit of methane and oxygen to burn, it wouldn't release enough energy to ignite the next unit, and the reaction of would die. Anyone with a chem book should be able to crunch the numbers and check this.
  16. Kurdt

    Kurdt 4,941
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    Like people have said before you need oxygen to make things burn. If you have a little oxygen on the surface of titan the whole thing isn't going to go up in flames because what little oxygen there is will be used up and the flames quenched. Its like trying to burn awhole lump of coal in a bell jar without adding any new air. Its impossible.
  17. Why do we say "burn"? You can't get a planetery mass to burn unless is hass more then 50 %of its mass as oxygen.
  18. Chronos

    Chronos 9,999
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    Hi Arian! Welcome to PF. What is your point?
  19. Astronuc

    Staff: Mentor

    Well there are those of us who use burn generically in the sense of producing thermal energy - even nuclear in the case of fission or fusion - and no oxidation is involved. In fact, one measure of energy production in nuclear fuel is burnup, expressed in energy/unit mass (e.g. GWd/tU, or MWd/kgHM, or fima).

    I answered scott1's question previously - a fusion device would not ignite Jupiter's atmosphere - any fusion reaction would be quickly quenched. The electrons from C, N and O quickly dissipate thermal energy by brehmsstrahlung radiation.

    The SL comet was mostly ice, so not free oxygen to burn hydrogen, methane or ammonia in Jupiter's atomsphere.

    As for oxidation in a generic sense, in addition to oxygen, one could use chlorine or fluorine as the oxidizer.

    True, energy-wise, but not temperature wise. Frictional heating of the comet plunging through the atmosphere would generate heat like the Space Shuttle experiences falling through earth's atmosphere - but at higher temperatures ( I need to find a realiable number).

    One estimate of the temperature generated by SL in Jupiter's atmosphere is 50,000 K (90000°F) -
    and http://www.seds.org/sl9/Educator/section07.html
    but I think that's too high.

    Incandescent means something like 3000 K (which the space shuttle experiences)

    Still even 50,000 K is less than 5 keV, and sustainable fusion would require temperatures more like 400 keV for p-p fusion. The sun has a temperature about 1290 keV or 15 million K.

    Jupiter's atmosphere - http://zebu.uoregon.edu/ph121/l15.html

  20. Doesn't the Sun's corana have a higher temperature then the surface(maybe the core I'am not sure which)?
  21. Sounds like fun, wana make it burn? Send it into the sun, just for the fun of it.
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