Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Volcanoes and Combustion
Name: Kellie H>
Status: Educator
Age: 6-8
Location: California 
Country: United States
Date: January 23, 2005


Question:
If fire needs oxygen to burn, how is it that there are volcanoes in space when space is a vacuum, and fire can not exist in space?



Replies:
Volcanoes are not a result of burning. They are a result of melting. Rock is heated as a result of such things as plate tectonics or other heat sources within the planet. If there were no oxygen on Earth, we would still have volcanoes. In fact, many scientists believe that part of the reason we have an atmosphere is that there was "out gassing" from early volcanoes on our planet.

Pat Rowe


Kellie,

The molten lava from volcanoes is not fire. The lava is hot because, just as on Earth, there is tremendous heat towards the center of the planet, where the lava originates from. The pressure of the weight of the planet above the core creates great amounts of heat, making the rock molten. This becomes what we call lava when it comes up through a crack in the planet's outer rock layers, and sometimes erupts out of volcanoes So, no oxygen is required to have lava and volcanoes

David R. Cook
Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry Section
Environmental Research Division
Argonne National Laboratory



Click here to return to the Environmental and Earth Science Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (help@newton.dep.anl.gov), or at Argonne's Educational Programs

NEWTON AND ASK A SCIENTIST
Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory