John K Clark (
Thu, 26 Dec 1996 20:55:51 -0800 (PST)


> writes:
>to (transiently) stellify Jupiter by means of a nuke
>detonated in its metallic (or at least somewhere deep enough
>where hydrogen is sufficiently dense) hydrogen layer.
>You know, it's Christmas, and twinkle, twinkle. Why not?

An H bomb produces millions of times as much energy per pound as the sun
does because it does not rely on the very slow reactions of the most common
isotope of Hydrogen (H1) like the sun does. Thermonuclear bombs use a much
faster reaction than the sun does, it works by fusing deuterium (H2) and
tritium (H3). In nature only about one atom in a thousand Hydrogen atoms is
deuterium and tritium is virtually nonexistent.

An H bomb has much better fuel than the sun does, and even the best fuel will
not burn if the conditions are not right. The rate at which a fusion reaction
occurs is a function not only of the temperature of the mixture but also its
density. In an H bomb the fission trigger heats the deuterium and tritium to
a temperature of about 400,000,000 degrees Kelvin, much hotter than anything
in the sun, and it also compresses it until it is several times denser than
lead. If you set off an H bomb at the center of Jupiter little would happen.
A very small amount of Jupiter's hydrogen would fuse, but that would make
heat and the heat would make things expand and that would reduce the density
and that would stop the reaction very quickly. The pressure at the center of
Jupiter is just too small to confine the fusing Hydrogen.

If Jupiter were 50 times bigger things would be different, then the pressure
at the center would be so great that when the fusion reaction started the heat
would not be able to expand the Hydrogen enough to stop the reaction. This is
what happens in the sun, a balance between the heat produced by fusion
reactions that wants the sun to expand, and gravity that wants the sun to
contract. Eventually gravity always wins. When its hydrogen fuel has all been
converted into helium ash the sun will contract into a white dwarf, if it was
twice as big it would end life as a Neutron Star, it is was twice as big again
it would contract into a Black Hole.

I'm pleased to note that I'm not the only nut who liked to make things go
boom when he was a kid. When I was 9 I made some interesting blue gunk with
my Chemistry set, liquid plant food and some household cleaners, I'm not
exactly sure what it was, my note keeping was not all that it should have
been, but I do know that it blew up. I have a very small scar under my left
eye to this day.

John K Clark

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