Rotating Question Curious About Astronomy? Ask an Astronomer

Why doesn't the hydrogen on Jupiter explode?

Jupiter and the other giant planets are made mostly of hydrogen. Hydrogen is very explosive. We have also seen lightning on some of the giant planets. Why doesn't the lightning make the hydrogen explode?

When hydrogen explodes, it does so by combining with oxygen in the following reaction:

2 H2 + O2 => 2 H2O + energy

If there is no oxygen, then the explosion cannot take place. While the gas giants are made mostly of hydrogen, they have very little oxygen in their atmospheres.

In fact, the Earth is the only planet with an oxygen-rich atmosphere. The reason is that on Earth, plants and bacteria that perform photosynthesis release oxygen. There is no known photosynthetic life on any other planet, so they have only trace amounts of oxygen in their atmospheres.

September 2003, Britt Scharringhausen (more by Britt Scharringhausen) (Like this Answer)

Still Curious?

Get More 'Curious?' with Our New PODCAST:

More questions about Planets: Previous | Next

How to ask a question:

If you have a follow-up question concerning the above subject, submit it here. If you have a question about another area of astronomy, find the topic you're interested in from the archive on our site menu, or go here for help.

Table 'curious.Referrers' doesn't existTable 'curious.Referrers' doesn't exist

This page has been accessed 20904 times since September 19, 2003.
Last modified: June 2, 2006 3:18:52 PM

Legal questions? See our copyright, disclaimer and privacy policy.
Ask an Astronomer is hosted by the Astronomy Department at Cornell University and is produced with PHP and MySQL.

Warning: Your browser is misbehaving! This page might look ugly. (Details)