Nov 13, 2015

Space Explosions Myth

There are two popular misconceptions about how explosions work in space. The first is the kind you see in sci-fi movies, a giant explosion when a spaceship blows up, often big enough to destroy other ships with the shock wave. The second, believed by many is that because there is no oxygen in the vacuum of space, explosions are categorically impossible .

The reality is somewhere in the middle. The latter misconception is predicated on the idea of setting fires in a literal vacuum, wherein you are in the vacuum of space and trying to flick a lighter on. That would not work, but if an explosion were to occur inside a spaceship, the oxygen inside could briefly mix with other gases and form the necessary chemical reactions for a fire. Depending on the gas concentrations, it could even be large enough to blow up a ship. Since there is no pressure in space, the explosion would dissipate in a matter of milliseconds once it hit the vacuum. If you blinked, you’d miss it. There would also be no shock wave, which is the deadliest part of an explosion in the Earth’s atmosphere.