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View Full Version : Would a nuke explode in "space"



What
2008-Mar-15, 07:53 AM
Well would it?

Jens
2008-Mar-15, 08:01 AM
Yes, it would. A nuclear explosion doesn't involve combustion, so it doesn't require oxygen.

astromark
2008-Mar-15, 08:25 AM
Yes, a sudden burst of energy and, sub atomic particles would expand away from the critical mass explosion. There would be radiation and heat generated. Your ears would ring with silence. To close and the microwave radiation would reduce you to a bloody smudge... At a safe distance a very bright flash that would be unpleasant, yes?.

JohnD
2008-Mar-15, 08:54 AM
A conventional explosive will explode in space.
They don't need atmospheric oxygen either.

Find out how a star works, and compare with an 'H' bomb!
J

Noclevername
2008-Mar-15, 09:04 AM
They can and they have. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_altitude_nuclear_explosion

Note that while still technically "within the (legally defined) atmosphere", they were effectively in vaccum.

mugaliens
2008-Mar-15, 10:54 AM
To close and the microwave radiation would reduce you to a bloody smudge...

That and the shock wave. Not much to propogate it in space, but the vaporized casing gas travelling at several thousand feet per second would still have some impact.

As for the microwaves... Isn't that what the aluminum foil hats are for?

KKHS
2008-Mar-15, 11:19 AM
(Would a nuke explode in "space") Well would it?

That's pretty much the most common event in the universe. Exept nukes have rapid fission, but basically it's the same thing. Element turning in to another, and releasing some matter as radiation while chanching. It doesn't matter if it happend inside a bomb or a star, or as radioactive decay.

joema
2008-Mar-15, 01:50 PM
Well would it?
As already stated there have been numerous nuclear warhead detonations in space. The test code-named Starfish Prime was at an altitude of 248 miles (400 km).

Some of the effects we associate with nuclear bombs (fireball, blast, shock, mushroom cloud) are almost non-existent in space. The reason is most of these require the atmosphere.

As viewed from earth, the Starfish Prime test appeared visually bright, but most of this was probably auroral -- like a super-bright Aurora borealis.

Viewed from space, a nuclear detonation would likely not produce a bright fireball or shock wave. It would likely appear as a very brief bluish flash, like a camera flash strobe. Most of the destructive energy would be released as neutron and X radiation.

You would never feel a blast wave, as there's no atmosphere to propagate it. If you were close enough to feel physical impact from vaporized bomb casing materials, you'd already be dead from extreme radiation (which moves at the speed of light, and would hit you first).

mugaliens
2008-Mar-15, 04:17 PM
You would never feel a blast wave, as there's no atmosphere to propagate it. If you were close enough to feel physical impact from vaporized bomb casing materials, you'd already be dead from extreme radiation (which moves at the speed of light, and would hit you first).

I'm pretty sure radiation, even extreme, takes some time to fry neurons and cause death.

I read an account of one person who received an accidental and very extreme dose of lethal radiation. He deteriorated very rapidly (a few hours), but it did take time.

I suppose that if you're close enough it might just be a split second, but that close, you're suffering more from the effects of the blast than the radiation.

Along this continuum there exists some point beyond which blast effects have little to do with death and where radiation effects have much to do with death.

Strangely, despite a long history dealing with nukes, I'm finding this line of conversation (as well as my own) a bit morbid, even if I did throw in my two cents earlier.

Nukes are tools, and I really wish we could have figured out how to use them effectively for means other than (somehow) stopping WWIII. Although I think it would have been incredible to witness one being detonated, if another nuke is never detonated, I won't shed a tear.

clint
2008-Mar-15, 06:06 PM
So they did get one thing right in Armageddon :lol:

ASEI
2008-Mar-15, 06:26 PM
If you wanted to provide impulse with a nuke in space, couldn't you enclose the device in a lead-lined case to absorb a good portion of the radiation as thermal energy, and surround the lead with a liquid hydrogen tank? (Or vice versa). Maybe you could create a "shaped charge" where a jet of gas propels a lead plate into something.


Nukes are tools, and I really wish we could have figured out how to use them effectively for means other than (somehow) stopping WWIII. Although I think it would have been incredible to witness one being detonated, if another nuke is never detonated, I won't shed a tear. There was a time, back before people were afraid of nuclear technology, when we openly discussed things like digging panama-canal scale projects in weeks rather than years using nuclear explosives. Earth-moving on a titanic scale. In using them to hollow out massive caves underground, miles in diameter (see project Gnome), certainly useful for space colonization. Manipulating massive asteroids is another use that comes to mind.

I'd like to see them used again (for peaceful purposes). You don't just walk away from that much raw power at your disposal if you ever want to accomplish anything massive (diverting asteroids, colonizing space, ect). I have a hard time envisioning us space-faring in any serious sense without nuclear power in general. Nuclear explosives specifically can get a lot done. They're dangerous, but so is anything that is effective to the degree that it is effective.

joema
2008-Mar-15, 06:44 PM
I'm pretty sure radiation, even extreme, takes some time to fry neurons and cause death...I read an account of one person who received an accidental and very extreme dose of lethal radiation. He deteriorated very rapidly (a few hours), but it did take time...I suppose that if you're close enough it might just be a split second, but that close, you're suffering more from the effects of the blast than the radiation.
You're likely thinking about "criticality accidents" involving vastly less radiation than a nuclear warhead. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticality_accident

A human can receive a lethal readiation dose (several thousand REM) and stay alive for several hours. However over about 8,000 REM will immediately incapacitate. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_poisoning

The radiation dose delivered in space from a close nuclear detonation is vastly higher than this. Even inside a spacecraft, a human would be instantly killed.

We know this from studies of neutron warheads within the atmosphere. A 1 kt neutron warhead at 690 meters will deliver about 80 Grays (roughly 8,000 REM) to a crew shielded inside a tank. They would be immediately incapacitated: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutron_bomb

However the earth's atmosphere greatly attenuates neutron radiation. It drops by a factor of 10 every 500 meters. In space there is NO such attenuation. http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Neutron_bomb

Even within the atmosphere (which enables blast effects AND attenuates radiation) the kill radius from radiation is much greater than from blast for a neutron warhead.

In space there is no atmospheric blast effect, and neutron radiation is not attenuated. Even regular (not enhanced radiation) nuclear warheads emit tremendous neutron radiation. But any party using nuclear weapons in space would likely use neutron warheads, since blast effects are limited without an atmosphere to propagate through.

Consider the above situation -- but in space. A 1 kt warhead would deliver about 800 Grays (80,000 REM) to a shielded crew at a range of 690 meters. So they get at least 10x the radiation, but virtually no blast.

Even within the atmosphere they would survive the blast, but be killed by the radiation. Outside the atmosphere, there is no atmosphere to convey the blast, and radiation is greatly magnified.

JohnD
2008-Mar-15, 07:01 PM
You don't need an explosion to acheive criticality and lethal radiation poisoning. I suppose that's obvious, but see the Tokaimura incident: http://www.aip.org/pt/dec99/toka2.htm
The three workers nearest the vessel received 10-20,000, 6-10,000 and 1-5000 millisieverts respectively. 8000 is considered lethal. The first took 3 months, the second 7 months to die and the third survived, despite intensive treatment.
John

KaiYeves
2008-Mar-15, 07:11 PM
Why is space in quotation marks?

trinitree88
2008-Mar-15, 07:22 PM
American bomb designer,Ted Taylor, designed a space ship propelled by nukes....they would be dropped successively out the "tailpipe"...so to speak, and the blast wave would push a plate to deliver impulses to the ship...see:http://www-istp.gsfc.nasa.gov/stargaze/Snucfly.htm


:doh::naughty::eek:.......pete

geonuc
2008-Mar-15, 07:34 PM
...Strangely, despite a long history dealing with nukes, I'm finding this line of conversation (as well as my own) a bit morbid, even if I did throw in my two cents earlier....

There was a time in my life when I had to walk past 16 nuclear warhead-tipped missiles on my way to 'work'. I still find myself uneasy in discussing them.

joema
2008-Mar-15, 07:59 PM
...three workers nearest the vessel received 10-20,000, 6-10,000 and 1-5000 millisieverts respectively. 8000 is considered lethal. The first took 3 months, the second 7 months to die and the third survived, despite intensive treatment.
John
Note 20,000 millisieverts = 20 Grays = 2,000 REMs.

A 1kt neutron warhead within the atmosphere at 690 meters delivers to a shielded tank crew 4x this. Outside the atmosphere (with no atmospheric attenuation of neutrons) they'd receive over 40x that value, or about 800,000 millisieverts.

Noclevername
2008-Mar-15, 08:03 PM
:doh::naughty::eek:.......pete

Why all the disparaging smileys? Orion the first seems like a viable method of propulsion for long interplanetary/interstellar distances.

What
2008-Mar-16, 12:10 AM
Why is space in quotation marks?
I thought I'd leave it open for remarkation. I don't know much about outer space. :o

KaiYeves
2008-Mar-16, 12:11 AM
I thought I'd leave it open for remarkation. I don't know much about outer space.
Okay.

formulaterp
2008-Mar-16, 10:54 PM
Why all the disparaging smileys? Orion the first seems like a viable method of propulsion for long interplanetary/interstellar distances.

One thing about Project Orion that always left me a bit queasy was how to slow the spacecraft down. So you're telling me I have to fly INTO the thermonuclear explosions ..... repeatedly?

Noclevername
2008-Mar-16, 11:03 PM
One thing about Project Orion that always left me a bit queasy was how to slow the spacecraft down. So you're telling me I have to fly INTO the thermonuclear explosions ..... repeatedly?

No more inherently dangerous than flying out of them.

To make it easier, just aim for a fast-moving star that moves away from the Solar System. That minimizes the deceleration needed-- although it'll probably increase your travel time.

John Mendenhall
2008-Mar-18, 04:42 PM
How about the other direction? As I recall, the proposed mile deep underwater test in the '50's testing program was canceled. Anybody know anything about it?

Nick Theodorakis
2008-Mar-18, 05:28 PM
How about the other direction? As I recall, the proposed mile deep underwater test in the '50's testing program was canceled. Anybody know anything about it?

Not for a mile deep, anyway, but there were several underwater nuclear tests (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Underwater_explosion) at various depths, the deepest according to the linked article at 2000 ft.

Nick

neilzero
2008-Mar-18, 11:03 PM
It seems to me, flying into a nuclear explosion is at least slightly more hazardous than flying out of a nuclear explosion. Much more hazardous in some senarios. Neil

lbhloz
2008-Mar-18, 11:50 PM
You can even fire a gun in space, so when everyone's finished with wars on earth we'll still have somthing to do.

Noclevername
2008-Mar-19, 11:33 AM
It seems to me, flying into a nuclear explosion is at least slightly more hazardous than flying out of a nuclear explosion. Much more hazardous in some senarios. Neil

Not really. The explosion itself lasts only a fraction of a second, it's not like you'll be flying into a huge fireball as would occur on Eath, just a brief burst of radiation and a rapidly-dispersing plasma wave-- leading with a pusher plate designed to withstand precisely those conditions. The only major danger, whether flying backwards or forwards, is if a bomb goes off prematurely, and that possibility will have been examined very carefully by the engineers who design build such a craft.

ASEI
2008-Mar-19, 12:35 PM
Flying "backwards" or "forwards" are equivalent states in outer space. As long as the velocity of the bomb relative to you is the same, the effects would be the same no matter what direction you are pointed with respect to your net velocity.

lbhloz
2008-Mar-25, 07:56 PM
There were some designs for using nuclear warheads to propell a intersteller craft. Somthing like firiing them off at the back and riding the shockwaves. Seems a little bit overkill really.

geonuc
2008-Mar-25, 08:44 PM
There were some designs for using nuclear warheads to propell a intersteller craft. Somthing like firiing them off at the back and riding the shockwaves. Seems a little bit overkill really.

Yeas, Project Orion, mentioned a few times upthread.

mugaliens
2008-Mar-25, 09:24 PM
...and the third survived, despite intensive treatment.
John


He survived, despite intensive treatment? What kind of treatment were they giving him? More radiation?

mugaliens
2008-Mar-25, 09:31 PM
So they did get one thing right in Armageddon :lol:

Yes, although you can achieve the same thing by simply encasing in a hard shell and impacting it at a thousand feet per second. Just set the fuse for a 1 second delay.

Loads deeper than how far the Armageddon crew drilled.

Would the nuker survive a 1,000-foot trip through rock? Yes, it would, if you designed it to.

You'd probably need more like 10,000 fps and a 0.1 second delay, though...

JohnD
2008-Mar-26, 11:02 PM
He survived, despite intensive treatment? What kind of treatment were they giving him? More radiation?

Maybe English is not your native language, mugs.
The operative phrase may be anywhere in the sentence, so "The first took 3 months, the second 7 months to die and the third survived, despite intensive treatment" has the same meaning as "Despite intensive treatment, the first took 3 months, the second 7 months to die and the third survived." But let it pass.

John

Neverfly
2008-Mar-26, 11:15 PM
Maybe English is not your native language, mugs.
The operative phrase may be anywhere in the sentence, so "The first took 3 months, the second 7 months to die and the third survived, despite intensive treatment" has the same meaning as "Despite intensive treatment, the first took 3 months, the second 7 months to die and the third survived." But let it pass.

John

Actually, English is my native language and it threw me for a loop too.
It looks like you said he survived despite intense treatment.
I've been speaking Only English my whole life...http://us.i1.yimg.com/us.yimg.com/i/mesg/emoticons7/106.gif

Vanamonde
2008-Mar-30, 08:40 AM
If you wanted to provide impulse with a nuke in space, couldn't you enclose the device in a lead-lined case to absorb a good portion of the radiation as thermal energy, and surround the lead with a liquid hydrogen tank? (Or vice versa). Maybe you could create a "shaped charge" where a jet of gas propels a lead plate into something.

This is all ready done in the basic design of a thermonuclear bomb. The "shaped charge" is the initial plutonium blast designed to contain and focus enough heat and pressure to make the deuterium-tritium-lithium to undergo fusion, all inside in a uranium-238 shell that first contains the pressure and then adds extra fission power to the blast.

Another variation (from the mind of Teller, who create the first H-bomb) is a set of crystals that focus the radiation and cause it to become an X-ray laser pulse, just before they vaporize. I doubt if the details are available without a high security clearance and I am so sure it will really ruin your day if you happen to be in the way. This was proposed to stop an enemy's missile during launch phase at a great distance.