Neil deGrasse Tyson explains how to blow up a planet

By David Ferguson
Thursday, October 31, 2013 14:15 EDT
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In the video embedded below, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson explained how the solar system would be affected if a space station like the Death Star from “Star Wars” destroyed Mars. He went on to explain exactly how a space station might do that, should one exist with sufficient firepower.

A listener named Alex wrote in to ask, “In the movie ‘Star Wars,’ we see the Death Star blow up the planet Alderaan. Setting aside the question of how this thing would be possible, what would happen to our solar system if the Empire blew up, say, Mars?”

“Yeah, that is such a great question,” deGrasse Tyson said. “It’s really simple: First, how would you go about blowing up a planet?”

First, he said, you look at “what’s holding the planet together,” all the gravity and the solid matter that make up a planet.

“Here’s how you blow something up,” he explained. “You ask yourself how much energy is keeping it together. Then you put more than that amount of energy into the object. It will explode.”

You calculate the “binding energy” of the planet, which is gravitational, and overcome it, he said. If you have an apparatus that can fire that amount of energy into the planet without it just punching through to the other side, you can blow up the planet.

“If you did it to Mars,” he said, “we’d lose our Curiosity rover,” but “we would continue to orbit the sun” unharmed.

Watch the video, embedded below via Star Talk Radio:

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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