Since we have the technology to launch an enormous explosive into the atmospheres of the gas giants, would it be possible to light one on fire since their atmospheres are pretty much all just hydrogen and helium? Would it stay burning?

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    $\begingroup$ helium burns at all? hydrogen would burn with what oxidizer? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Apr 20, 2020 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ What seems an enormous explosive to us barely registers to a gas giant. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Apr 20, 2020 at 17:18
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    $\begingroup$ Do you mean ignite nuclear fusion ? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_fusion $\endgroup$
    – Cornelis
    Apr 20, 2020 at 17:20
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    $\begingroup$ I think this question is a good one. Answers should highlight mistakes in the premises. Preconceived ideas can thus be addressed. $\endgroup$
    – Manu H
    Apr 20, 2020 at 17:34
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you all for the clarifying comments. It's the oxidization I did not understand. The comment by @Cornelisinspace prompted me to search the question of igniting nuclear fusion and came across this helpful article in case anyone is interested. $\endgroup$ Apr 20, 2020 at 17:42

1 Answer 1


Combustion requires a fuel (hydrogen), an ignition source (your enormous explosive), and an oxidizer.

There's a very small amount of oxygen in the atmospheres of the gas giants, almost all of it already bound up in water -- i.e. all the oxygen has already combusted with some of the hydrogen. Without the introduction of a lot more oxygen or other oxidizer, there's no way for the surplus hydrogen to burn.

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    $\begingroup$ Was once some Sci-Fi murder mystery where somebody tried to murder somebody else by sprinkling a catalyst on the regulator of a methane bottle, hoping to spark an explosion. The sleuth's breakthrough clue was the discovery of the same catalyst on an oxygen regulator as well. "Ah Ha!" says the sleuth, "The would-be murderer must be somebody who is used to working out on the surface in the methane atmosphere. He sprinkled the wrong regulator at first, because out there, oxygen is the gas that he must be more careful with." $\endgroup$ Apr 20, 2020 at 17:37
  • $\begingroup$ @SolomonSlow: I have read that story! $\endgroup$
    – user21103
    Apr 20, 2020 at 18:46
  • $\begingroup$ @SolomonSlow Isaac Asimov, "The Dust of Death" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dust_of_Death $\endgroup$ Apr 20, 2020 at 18:54

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