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 Nuclear Weapons in Space
Name: Austin J.
Status: student
Age: 15
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2001

What would happen if you detonated a nuclear weapon in space? What kind of range would it have?

Hi, Austin !!

Well, by nuclear weapon you mean an atomic bomb based on a fission or fusion process. Our Sun is - in this sense - an atomic bomb, where fusion processes occur ( hydrogen atoms become helium atoms). There is a lost of mass after this reaction, that is converted in energy ( E= mc^2). But, on the other side, its mass is so big that the gravity force keeps the star as a body in space. In the case of a weapon - like you propose - the products will be dispersed all over the universe. The effect would be similar to that observed on the Earth, with some differences when you consider that there is no air in space. Electro- magnetic waves would be liberated with radioactive particles, as well, and the intensity of this effect would decrease with the square of the distance of the explosion.

Alcir Grohmann

Click here to return to the General Topics 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 (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

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

Argonne National Laboratory