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How can something explode in the vacuum of space?

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In space no one can hear you explode…

Asked by: Clayton Caudwell, Lincoln

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Many astronomical objects such as novae, supernovae and black hole mergers are known to catastrophically ‘explode’. This means that they energetically destroy themselves or fundamentally change, releasing matter and energy into the Universe.

These are quite different from many explosions here on Earth, which, apart from being feeble in comparison, usually require oxygen or an added oxidant in order to ‘burn’. But as long as the explosion doesn’t require oxygen, then it will work in much the same way in space as on Earth.

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