I want to create a sci-fi story, and since galactic warfare is on a larger scale, nukes wouldn't do much damage (or I wouldn't think so anyway). I would like ideas about an ultimate deterrent that could destroy stars (or a bomb with a supernova blast radius would work too).

By "to destroy a star", i mean to kill off the star by causing a supernova, but any way to destroy a star works for me.

Assume that warp technology is available and transportation across a galaxy is quick.

Additionally would dropping an antimatter bomb on a very unstable star do any damage?

(I've had another idea: what if you use energy from a star, concentrate it into a warhead, and the use the warhead to create a nova blast. is it plausible?)

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    $\begingroup$ I find that chucking stars at other stars tends to work, although it's incredibly difficult for most civilizations. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 22:44
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site! Good first question. You are right that nukes wouldn't harm a star since they are essentially massive nukes themselves. If it were me, I'd create a wormhole between the target star and a far more massive star to deplete its fuel until it no longer had enough to sustain a nuclear reaction. But that's just me. $\endgroup$
    – IchabodE
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 22:58
  • $\begingroup$ Related: How can I destroy a gas giant planet? (might even be a duplicate, given that the only real difference is the size of the celestial body involved) and to a slightly lesser degree The opposite to Worldbuilding: World Destruction. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 9:28
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    $\begingroup$ I once asked something similar on Physics.SE - there might be some useful ideas there physics.stackexchange.com/questions/37912/… $\endgroup$
    – N. Virgo
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 9:55
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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 22:16

22 Answers 22


WARNING: While this post does point to a scientific paper there are a lot of doubts about the quality of that paper and how reliable it may be. The review process of the paper, credentials of the author and validity of the claims have all been questioned. Unless or until those questions can be answered any information from it should be used with caution.

At least one real life mad scientist seems to believe this is indeed possible, and with technologies that are at least conceivable with todays understanding of science and technology.

ABSTRACT The Sun contains ~74% hydrogen by weight. The isotope hydrogen-1 (99.985% of hydrogen in nature) is a usable fuel for fusion thermonuclear reactions. This reaction runs slowly within the Sun because its temperature is low (relative to the needs of nuclear reactions). If we create higher temperature and density in a limited region of the solar interior, we may be able to produce self-supporting detonation thermonuclear reactions that spread to the full solar volume. This is analogous to the triggering mechanisms in a thermonuclear bomb. Conditions within the bomb can be optimized in a small area to initiate ignition, then spread to a larger area, allowing producing a hydrogen bomb of any power. In the case of the Sun certain targeting practices may greatly increase the chances of an artificial explosion of the Sun. This explosion would annihilate the Earth and the Solar System, as we know them today.

Alexander Bolonkin, Joseph Friedlander; "Explosion of Sun" http://www.scirp.org/journal/PaperInformation.aspx?PaperID=34277

Assuming Bolonkin is correct, you would need to introduce a massive amount of energy into a very small area of the Sun over a very short time frame to trigger this fusion cascade effect. We might believe that energy releases many times that the "Tsar Bomba" would be needed, but according to the calculations in the paper, as little as 0.5Mt. detonated deep within the Solar Photosphere. I'll leave you to check the math and other assumptions of the paper, but as a lower bound, it is rather unsettling to contemplate.

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    $\begingroup$ just to point out the difficulties in sinking a device deep in the sun. It's not only the heat (and you can shield from it from some degree with a insanily powerfull magnet) but the main problems are pressure and density. The sun core is so dense light itself take a million years to escape from it $\endgroup$
    – jean
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 13:01
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    $\begingroup$ We used to think a nuke might detonate the terran atmosphere as well... $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 15:49
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah I'm a bit skeptical of that theory too. A star's temperature and pressure are pretty resistant to change unless you add a LOT of mass by, for example, crashing another star into it. Anything that can deliver that much energy to a star might as well be another star getting flung into it, because more effort than that is just unnecessarily complicating things. Build a star cannon! $\endgroup$
    – thanby
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ @jean going to the core isn't necessary; the paper discusses detonating the bomb anywhere from near the surface of the photosphere (where the density is less than earth's atmosphere at sea level) to a point 30% of the way from the surface to the core (where the density is still less than water). The temperature is still absolutely absurd as you go deeper, though :) $\endgroup$
    – hobbs
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 5:28
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    $\begingroup$ Not yet a refutation, but I would wonder why a solar flare can happen and not cause runaway fusion, while a nuclear weapon supposedly could. The energy release is much, much higher and takes place in the same location. In thermal runaway scenarios, temperatures only need to reach levels lower than those in explosions of nuclear weapons, but they require electron degeneracy, which Bolonkin does not address. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Feb 20, 2016 at 20:04

You can always drop a chunk of degenerate white dwarf into it.

If the mass of the target star + your bomb is greater than the Chandrasekhar limit it makes a pop that would startle some people. You would need at least a .4 solar mass object to do this.

Operation Giant Steelie

Procure a solid mass of iron .01 times the mass of the sun get it spinning until atoms at the equator are fixin on breaking free. This is a while past when they reach escape velocity. Gently lob it into the solar north pole. Because of conservation of angular momentum, this will cause the sun to flatten out and break apart.

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    $\begingroup$ Yep. I'd go with that option 1: just increase the mass of the star until it passes the limit and it will go boom, guaranteed. That's how a lot of supernovae occur: star A is bigger so sucks matter off companion star B until it hits the limit and then boom. If you've got warp tech, you just need to keep warping to the star dumping matter (anything you like) close enough to get drawn in by gravity. Depending on how much you can carry in one go, this might take a while and might be expensive in warp fuel, but it's is guaranteed to work. Now you just have to work out where to find all that matter. $\endgroup$
    – Simba
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 16:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Simba I thought starting the sun on fire was pretty cool in Thucydides answer $\endgroup$
    – King-Ink
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 16:53
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    $\begingroup$ "startle" - nice way to put it...:-) $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 20:13
  • $\begingroup$ What kind of time scale are we talking about? You've just launched .4 solar masses at the sun from a distance of 0.1 AU at 0.1 light speed... now what? $\endgroup$
    – ErikE
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 0:13
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    $\begingroup$ @ErikE The linked "pop" article says: Within a few seconds of initiation of nuclear fusion, a substantial fraction of the matter in the white dwarf undergoes a runaway reaction, releasing enough energy (1–2×10<sup>44</sup> J) to unbind the star in a supernova explosion. $\endgroup$
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 3:10

Nukes would indeed do basically nothing to the sun, it's a nuke far bigger than anything we could ever make continuously exploding for millions of years.

Equally anti-matter - you'd need an absolutely monumental amount to even make a dent. This is something a lot of sci-fi writers get wrong. Stars are massive. Absolutely mindbogglingly enormous. To put that in perspective our sun could consume the entire planet earth (in normal matter not anti-matter) and it wouldn't even notice. Throw enough anti-matter into the sun and you will make a big explosion but you would need a LOT of anti-matter.

To do what you are talking about you are going to need some exotic physics and some techno-babble. You're talking increasing or reducing the effect of gravity inside the star, or somehow changing the behavior of fusion, or introducing some sort of weird quantum state chain reaction.

None of those things are possible using any physics we know about, but then neither is FTL travel so you can quite plausible use the FTL drive as a starting point and create some form of nova bomb.

  • $\begingroup$ @TimB Good idea thinking of stuff other than "conventional" star-destroying weapons, if there's warp capability I'd say bending the laws of physics to cause problems in the star is definitely within the reach of the technology. $\endgroup$
    – thanby
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 18:48

A rapidly-deployable Dyson sphere

Are those aliens on Omicron Persei 8 causing you grief? What better way to permanently deal with the problem than by literally stealing their star? Simply deploy a Dyson sphere around their solar system's star(s), and watch as their planet freezes!

As a bonus, you get all the energy produced by the star(s) you just wrapped up, which can be used to create more Dyson spheres and power star-system-destroying superweapons. Soon, the entire galaxy will be under your command!

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    $\begingroup$ To do this on a budget, just position an opaque object between the sun and their planet to achieve the same effect at much less of the cost. i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/s--nclxN-mG--/… $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 19:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Erty The down side of such an approach is that a smaller object would be easier for the target civilization to remove or destroy. Or worse, they could repurpose it to their benefit, such as a giant solar collector to power local interstellar travel. $\endgroup$
    – Marsh
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ Fair enough! I guess to counter that I would say that you should just defend the object really well. If you play it right you could freeze their planet and destroy their fleet. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 21:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Erty The Dyson sphere approach has the additional benefit of getting all the star's energy for yourself. It hurts your enemy, and greatly benefits you. Any remnants living on ships/stations that didn't die from the star effectively going out won't be in a position to fight back. $\endgroup$
    – user14624
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 21:47
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    $\begingroup$ True! But it also requires you to be a Kardashev Level II civilization. If you're unable to build a Dyson sphere (and quickly!), tug-boating a moon into place is a pretty good way to kill a planet fast. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 21:56

Option 1: Add mass.

The more massive a star is, the faster it burns, and the sooner it dies. Add too much and it may go supernova, or even become a black hole.

Option 2: Remove mass.

Stars fuse atoms because they're so heavy they squash everything together. They squash because anything with mass has gravity. Removing mass from a star reduces the pressure on the atoms within it, lowering the rate of fusion, and cooling the whole darn thing down.

Fine print.

The problem is, both of these options require planets and planets worth of mass to have any sort of effect. If you're a galactic civilisation that's capable of moving that about in a quick time frame, you're just better off smashing planets into their planets.

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    $\begingroup$ Also, they require huge timeframes (even supergiants last millions of years) $\endgroup$
    – Daniel M.
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 0:00
  • $\begingroup$ @DanielM. Just keep adding(or removing) mass! $\endgroup$
    – user6511
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 0:05
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    $\begingroup$ Guy with a shovel, removing mass from R136a1 for a million years... Supervisor: "Hey Guy, the guys upstairs have decided to go with the 'Adding of mass' program. Pile it all back in." Guys mutters and grumbles, but does as he's told. Another millennium, another buck. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 12:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Nahshonpaz That would make a hilarious short story $\endgroup$
    – thanby
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 18:49
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    $\begingroup$ Stargate: SG-1 S4:E22 Exodus does Option 2 by dropping a gate into a sun, then connecting it to a gate known to be falling into a black hole. "You know, you blow up one sun and suddenly everyone expects you to walk on water." Carter never hears the end of it. $\endgroup$
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 13:38


To my knowledge, the only really serious calculations regarding this scenario are in an article by Alexander Bolonkin and Joseph Friedlander. It's currently cited in the current highest-voted answer as a feasibility study of the possibility of destroying the Sun by detonating a nuclear weapon in the Sun's atmosphere, inducing a self-supporting nuclear detonation wave that would subsequently propagate throughout the entire Sun, causing a catastrophic explosion. I think it's an excellent guide with which to show that this idea is not at all possible, contrary to the claims made. Given that, I'm going to critique its analysis, and therefore the scenario given.

The setup

Let's assume that someone has created a spaceship, placed a nuclear weapon on board, and sent it on a trajectory towards the Sun. They've timed it to detonate in the solar atmosphere; moreover, they've designed shielding that protect it from high temperatures and solar activity like flares and coronal mass ejections. Essentially, we can assume that the payload is delivered successfully and the detonation begins as desired.

If a nuclear weapon was detonated in any environment, creating a self-sustaining blast wave, the wave would be supported by whatever fusion reactions are favored by the surrounding medium. In other words, the weapon itself doesn't dictate the type of nuclear reactions supporting the blast wave, and the most efficient ones will be chosen. This is something that was studied during the Manhattan project. The scientists were concerned that the first detonation of a nuclear weapon would initiate a self-supporting blast wave that would travel through the atmosphere and oceans, killing all life on the planet.

It's a scary possibility, and naturally, it was modeled in a lot of detail. A number of papers were published on it over the years, including Ignition of the atmosphere with nuclear bombs. In air, the reactions the physicists were most concerned about involved the fusion of two nitrogen atoms - certainly a possibility, as nitrogen is the most abundant component of the atmosphere. Even though the groups considered the most favorable conditions for sustaining such a blast wave, they found a runaway detonation impossible for reasonably powerful nuclear weapons. I'm sure they thoroughly checked their calculations.

The Sun is largely composed of hydrogen, ionized because of the high temperatures. It generates energy primarily via a form of the proton-proton chain reaction (p-p chain); much higher temperatures would be needed to use reactions found in more massive stars. In particular, a variant called the p-p I branch is dominant and most temperatures in the solar core. It's reasonable to expect that the same sort of reactions would occur immediately following the detonation of the weapon, provided the required temperatures (10-15 million Kelvin) could be achieved.

Why would a nuclear weapon help?

With the exception of the corona, the Sun's photosphere has a temperature of about 5800 K. The temperature increases further into the Sun, but with the exception of the core, conditions aren't extreme enough for nuclear fusion to proceed. Bolonkin claims that even in the core, temperatures are low enough that the p-p chain proceeds slowly - about 15 million Kelvin. He invokes something called the Coulomb barrier to support his point, claiming that a nuclear weapon could surmount it.

The Coulomb barrier is an extremely well-studied phenomenon, because it's extremely important when fusion is on the verge of happening. Nuclei have a net positive charge, as they're composed of protons. Therefore, any two nuclei will repel each other if brought close together, via the electrostatic force - described by Coulomb's law, which you've probably talked about in an introductory physics course. This repulsion gets stronger the closer together the nuclei get, meaning that it's very, very hard to overcome the force. This is the Coulomb barrier.

The Coulomb barrier is a problem - so big a problem, in fact, that stars shouldn't be able to avoid it. Stellar fusion would be impossible except at extremely high temperatures - over 10 billion Kelvin! Fortunately, there's a way around it: quantum tunneling. Quantum tunneling arises because a particle's position and momentum can never be known exactly, and there is always a probability that a particle will be in a given location. The wavefunction of the particle - a description of how likely it is to be in a certain state - shows that two protons have a probability of being arbitrarily close together, which would normally be forbidden by classical physics.

Bolonkin ignores quantum tunneling, arguing that the merit of a nuclear weapon is that it could temporarily raise temperatures in a small region of the Sun. The higher the temperature, the more likely a particle is to move at higher speeds. Therefore, more protons would be likely to fuse. I've seen the same logic used elsewhere to justify using a nuclear weapon in this scenario. However, the temperatures around a nuclear weapon will only rise to several tens of millions of Kelvin - extremely hot by most standards, but far too cool to help more particles overcome the Coulomb barrier.

The stability conditions

Bolonkin claims that in order for a detonation wave to continue propagating, it must travel faster than the ion speed of sound. He eventually derives what he claims is the criterion for a successful, self-sustaining blast wave:1 $$n\tau>\frac{\gamma zk_BT}{(\gamma^2-1)E\langle\sigma v\rangle}\tag{1}$$ where:

  • $n$ is the number density of particles.
  • $\tau$ is something equivalent to the confinement time
  • $\gamma$ is the adiabatic index
  • $k_B$ is the Stefan-Boltzmann constant
  • $T$ is the temperature of the environment
  • $E$ is the energy of the reaction
  • $\langle\sigma v\rangle$ is the mean reaction rate - an average of the product of the collisional cross-section of a proton and the relative velocity of protons
  • $z$ is the charge of the nucleus divided by the fundamental charge.

Bolonkin claims that his condition is superior to the Lawson criterion, which is commonly used in designs of nuclear fusion reactors to determine whether fusion can take place. It's usually derived from a perspective of energy loss: Can the reaction, in the given environment, produce more energy than it loses? The Lawson criterion is $$n\tau>\frac{12k_BT}{E\langle\sigma v\rangle}\tag{2}$$ which is very similar. The authors seem to imply that Lawson's derivation is inapplicable in a star because, as they claim, there are no energy losses; in a nuclear reactor, on the other hand, energy can be lost to the walls and surrounding environment. Therefore, they conclude, their version is correct. Well, then let's see how much more favorable their condition is. Bolonkin says that $\gamma$ should be between 1.2 and 1.4, and that $z$ should be set to 1. In the cases where $\gamma=1.2$ and $\gamma=1.4$, we find that $$n\tau>\frac{2.73k_BT}{E\langle\sigma v\rangle},\quad n\tau>\frac{1.46k_BT}{E\langle\sigma v\rangle}$$ That's not a huge improvement - lower than Lawson's by a factor of 4 to 8, roughly. We shouldn't get too excited here. It's debatable as to whether either criterion holds, in fact, as Bolonkin failed to consider energy losses in the photosphere, where the detonation would originate. The upper layers of the Sun's atmosphere are optically thin, meaning that light can travel through them with relative ease. I'm concerned reasonable that, therefore, energy would be lost rather easily. Slightly more complex formulations of the Lawson criterion look at other sources of energy loss; Bolonkin's clearly does not.

One form of energy loss that comes to mind is thermal bremsstrahlung. Bremsstrahlung is radiation emitted when one charged particle is accelerated or decelerated by another. Given that after the detonation, we have hot ($\sim10^7$ Kelvin) plasma in an environment that may be optically thin to these x-rays, bremsstrahlung could be an efficient form of energy loss.2

I should note, of course, that the Lawson criterion is usually applied to nuclear reactors, not stars. Therefore, it seems strange that Bolonkin would want to compare his results to Lawson's at all.

The thermostat effect

The Sun is composed mostly of plasma - largely, as I said above, of hydrogen nuclei - protons! The gas obeys the ideal gas law, hopefully another concept you've come across before. The ideal gas law is an equation of state, meaning that it relates several thermodynamic variables together. Although the law is usually formulated as $PV=nRT$, a sometimes-preferred form in astrophysics is $$P=nk_BT\tag{3}$$ where $P$ is pressure, $n$ is number density, and $T$ is temperature. The ideal gas law should hold well in the outer layers, and should be a decent approximation in the core. The big criterion is that the thermal energy be much larger than the energy of interactions between protons, which holds in general. The standard solar model confirms this; the ideal gas law's predictions largely agree.

There are some pretty nice consequences of the ideal gas law. Let's say that temperature in a pocket of the Sun rises, thanks to the rate of nuclear reactions increasing. This should in turn speed up the reaction rate; I said before that higher temperatures are more beneficial to fusion. Well, according to the ideal gas law, if the temperature rises, then either the pressure increases or the density decreases.

It turns out that we should expect $P$ to increase and $n$ to decrease simultaneously. A star supporting itself by nuclear fusion is in hydrostatic equilibrium. The gas pressure trying to expand the star opposes the force of gravity trying to collapse the star. However, if the temperature rises, the pressure will increase. Suddenly, the star is out of equilibrium, and the net force on any layer will be upwards, away from the center. This lowers the density, which in turn lowers the reaction rate and the temperature, bringing the star to equilibrium again. This is sometimes informally referred to as the solar thermostat. This prevents runaway nuclear reactions, for the most part.

The quantity $\langle\sigma v\rangle$ is often approximated as being a power law in terms of temperature dependence. That is, $\langle\sigma v\rangle\propto T^\eta$, where $\eta$ is a constant. For the p-p chain, there is a small temperature dependence, relative to other reactions (like the CNO cycle). In particular, we can say that $\eta=4$.3 If we plug this into either version of the criterion, we find that $$n\tau>CT^{-3}$$ where $C$ is a constant depending on which criterion you've chosen. Therefore, at lower temperatures, $n\tau$ must be greater, making it harder and harder for fusion to occur as the temperature drops. Again, this assumes that both criteria are valid; even if they are, the risk of a runaway detonation is non-existent.

Astronomical events

It turns out we can look to the skies to think about naturally-occurring events that are similar to the scenario you describe. First, there are examples of solar activity, including solar flares and coronal mass ejections. The energy released in these events can range from $\sim10^{20}$ Joules to $\sim10^{25}$ Joules. However, the Tsar Bomba (the most powerful nuclear weapon ever detonated) released only $\sim10^{17}$ Joules. Given that solar flares regularly release thousands of times as much energy in the photosphere - the target region of detonation - without any catastrophic problems, I think we can consider the risk of detonation by nuclear weapon to be even lower.

Moving on, consider helium flashes. These are believe to occur in low-mass red giants (less than 2 solar masses). As hydrogen fusion ceases in the core of a star (while continuing further out), the core falls out of hydrostatic equilibrium, and the star begins to contract. This raises temperatures until matter in the core becomes degenerate. Degenerate matter does not obey the ideal gas law,4 and so cannot fight back against rising temperatures. Eventually, runaway fusion begins via the triple alpha process, at temperatures around 100 million Kelvin. However, even under such conditions, the matter soon becomes non-degenerate. Thermal pressure returns, the ideal gas law is applied, and the star is in hydrostatic equilibrium once more. Helium flashes are much more powerful than solar flares, coming in at around $\sim10^{41}$ Joules. You can read more about the instabilities involved in these detailed slides.

The thermostat mechanism is not applicable in objects composed solely of degenerate matter, like white dwarfs. This often has dire consequences; if matter is transferred onto the surface of a white dwarf and it heats up, runaway fusion can occur, usually involving carbon and oxygen. The result is a nova, which leaves much of the star intact, or a Type Ia supernova, which may destroy the white dwarf or turn it into a neutron star or black hole. Type Ia supernovae usually release $\sim10^{44}$ Joules of energy - although this is a byproduct of a successful detonation, not the cause of it.

Numerical simulations have been done of the propagation of detonation waves through white dwarfs. One result is that detonations have the potential to turn into deflagration waves, which are less catastrophic. This has been studied a lot in pure fluid dynamics, but it's interesting to know that instabilities can quench possible detonations in white dwarfs - I'll try to pull up an article on some examples. It makes me wonder whether, even if I'm wrong about everything above, if this hypothetical detonation could falter into a deflagration, therefore saving the Sun from destruction.

However, even in extremely catastrophic situations, a non-degenerate star like the Sun can stabilize itself against runaway fusion reactions. A red giant could survive a helium flash, which at first seems extremely devastating. There's no way that a puny nuclear weapon could overcome the mighty thermostat effect. In short, if you're trying to blow up the Sun, I'd recommend turning your efforts elsewhere. Bolonkin and Friedlander are, simply put, wrong.


1 His notation is non-standard and unclear, and include unnecessary terms for unit conversions. I've standardized them here for clarity, and fixed a typo or two he made.
2 The power radiated by thermal bremsstrahlung is proportional to $T^{1/2}$.
3 We call the case where $\eta=4$ weakly temperature dependent because some fusion reactions in slightly more massive stars involve $\eta=17$ or $\eta=20$!
4 White dwarfs and matter supported by electron degeneracy obey one of two main equations of state. For the ideal gas law, $P\propto\rho T$, where $\rho$ is density. White dwarfs obey $P\propto\rho^{5/3}$ (non-relativistic) or $P\propto\rho^{4/3}$ (relativistic), depending on the regime. In both cases, there is no temperature dependence.

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    $\begingroup$ Awesome answer. Out of curiosity, how are you sure that the ideal gas law holds in the sun? The pressure there seems like it would cause deviations due to molecular size, even as the temperature helps reduce the effect of intermolecular interactions. $\endgroup$
    – Dubukay
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 15:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Dubukay It should hold well in the outer layers, and should be a decent approximation in the core. The big criterion is that the thermal energy be much larger than the energy of interactions between protons, which holds in general. The standard solar model confirms this; the ideal gas law's predictions largely agree. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 15:58

If you have FTL transport in your fictional universe, you might be able to apply that to the problem. For example, if you use wormholes, open it up inside the star. If you can control the kind of energy needed for warp drive, you're lucky not to destroy a few nearby stars when inventing it! In fact, my joke answer of what GRB might be (before there was a solid consensus it was a mystery for a long time) is "That was a civilization trying to invent a warp drive".

Maybe you can use time travel and prevent the star from ever forming, or setting up another on a collision course way in the past. Or just make the star vanish into the 6th dimension.

Some Sci-Fi uses the idea of “strange matter” being more stable than normal stuff, such that if a tiny sample of strange matter formed it would convert anything it came into contact with. That would do the job here, if you got the initial sample to fall in rather than being blown away.

In Hogan's Giants series, the space ship technology (pre-FTL) uses black holes spinning in a ring to generate space warps to make a ship move at relativistic speeds by "falling" into the dent it makes (not a FTL space warp). A variation of that technology was used in a number of probes arranged around a star in an attempt to "adjust" it, and the experiment "did not work" in a violent manner.

In Stephen Baxter's universe, dark-matter life forms are making all the stars age prematurely. So what if there was some dark-dark-matter life form or extradimensional life form that had bad effects on a star, and you infected the star in question?

Of course, depending on the nature of the story the mechanism could be Clarke-tech (that is, might as well be magic). I had an idea for a story (never developed) where aliens give a gift to the humans: a little tadpole-shaped thingie that can destroy any body, whether asteroid or planet. It's in a jar that's very difficult to open and would require a concerned engineering effort to accomplish. But once opened, just drop the tadpole onto the “body that would cause a navigational hazard” and it starts eating away at it with the mass essentially just vanishing.

The story would be about how humans react to the existence of such a thing, and how it works in detail is never explained and does not need to be. The people in the story would lampshade the mystery (they wish they knew; they speculate) but the details don't matter to the story.

So what would happen if you dropped it into the sun? Maybe it would work. It's worth a try, I suppose.

  • $\begingroup$ Opening a warp from one side of the star core to the other could quite easily be enough to cause the whole thing to whirl and possibly gain enough speed to launch large mass right out. (Bonus points if this process can be aimed at enemies) Of course, unless some sort of magic overrides thermo, that's going to still require moving mind boggling amounts of mass extraordinary distances. No way around that. $\endgroup$
    – The Nate
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 7:07
  • $\begingroup$ "prevent the star from ever forming" - Just put an image in my head of a giant space-fan blowing all the dust away before it collapses $\endgroup$
    – thanby
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 18:59

I know when iron absorbs a lot of the energy created by the nuclear fusion within stars so if you could put enough iron (you'd need a lot) in a star, it could theoretically "kill" it, as it possibly can not gain any energy from the iron.

nuclear binding energy

  • $\begingroup$ Sooo, you're saying an electromagnet should serve? $\endgroup$
    – The Nate
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 7:08
  • $\begingroup$ This isn't right. Iron doesn't absorb energy - it's just you can't get out of it by fusion. So you're simply adding something that isn't fuel. $\endgroup$
    – flies
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ Actually Iron is at the peak (or trough) of the curve of binding energy, fusing iron or fissioning it provides no net energy. When the stellar core is fusing materials like carbon, silicon and oxygen into iron, there is no more fusion energy using back against the gravitational energy of the star, and the star implodes. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 20:22
  • $\begingroup$ To put a little bit more plainly what Thucydides is saying: It's not the presence of iron that destroys a star. It's the star itself making iron that destroys it. Iron is the main "ash" of a supernova. It's not the ash itself that started the fire, fire is the chemical process that creates ash. Just as it's not iron that causes stars to go supernova, it's the nuclear fusion process that creates iron that causes a star to go boom. $\endgroup$
    – Ghedipunk
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 23:03

First - examine "prior art" or subject matter.

[0] Warp drive in your universe. After you complete outline of technologies, you may find that Star Trek on screen used warp drive to disturb star surface (e.g. to destroy dominion shipyards) by causing a flare.

Ian Douglas / William Keith in "Galactic Corps" described species called Eulers, which used "trigger ships" (small capsules traveling at warp) to punch through the star, cause a shockwave which in turn resulted in star turning nova.

[1] As Star Trek TNG "Q" put it "simple - change the gravitational constant of the universe". This was explored in details in Issac Asimov's "Gods Themselves..." - Constants in Question were beautifully described by scientist Martin Reese in absolutely must-read "Just Six Numbers". Certain invention called electron pump allowed two universes to generate free energy by exploiting subtle differences in nuclear force strength. However, it turned out that these constants started drifting and equalizing between universes, causing slow, but meaningful change in star behaviour.

[2] There's option explored in Andromeda (TV series) as regular weapon (WMD by any means) and Stargate SG-1 (jury rigged) - "nova bombs" and shielded stargate dropped into the star. Both caused disturbing balance between radiation pressure and gravity in main sequence star. In first case, it was miniature "white hole" generated using combination of negative energy and exotic matter in second...well..just active stargate, sucking stellar mass.

[3] SG-1 in other episode beautifully told another concept: "poisoning the star" by introducing heavy elements into the core. Note: once stars star to create iron, which can't be fused further without significant energy input, their fate is sealed. Question is: how much is needed.

[4] Decade or so back, Scientific American published article about simulation regarding rouge white dwarf star hitting the Sun. Note, that recent discovery of gravitational waves confirmed that black hole systems may exist - and that includes such, which will give stars or other black holes effect of gravitational "slingshot".

[5] Again "Galactic Corps" - quantum mechanics. In general, if you could map wave functions of elementary particles that compose the star, you could alter them - and possibly, the physical parameters of respective particles. Even just "sniffing it out of existance".

[6] Introduce q-ball into the star as in movie "Sunshine". Again, use quantum mechanics to disturb fusion within the star.

[7] Brute force: find a small black hole. Throw huge star at it. Create accretion disk and polar jet aimed at given system :) problem is, that's overly excessive (why not smack original star) and limits damage to speed of light.

[8] Stars usually spin. There exist a neutron star (or magnetar) which is definitely too heavy and should collapse into black hole long time ago, but - as suggested in other answer - it is stabilized, presumably by fine balance between excess of mass and ultra-fast rotation. If you could arrest some of the spin...

[9] LHC-like scenario create artificial singularity, project into the star, let it do the and eat it.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Before the recent merger event observation, we already knew that black holes existed. E.g. syg A* shows stars making hairpin turns around an enormous mass that's small and invisible. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 4:17

Pump into the star half as much oxygen as the star has hydrogen*. That will cause the star to burn rather than fuse.

* May require a large oxygen supply.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ May require a large oxygen supply. You're kidding, right? $\endgroup$
    – cst1992
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 12:53
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @cst1992 I'd ask you the same question, but it's an utterly pointless one to ask :) $\endgroup$
    – Rob Grant
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 12:57
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ "May require a large oxygen supply." - Several gallons at least. Stars are pretty big [citation needed][disputed] $\endgroup$
    – thanby
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 18:55
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ what-if.xkcd.com/14 $\endgroup$
    – Charles
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 19:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Note that it doesn't really make much of a difference whether you pump hydrogen, lithium, oxygen, flourine or whatever else into the star. I suppose if we use nitrogen, it should be cheap enough... $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 20:46

Peter F Hamilton has introduced a device called "hawking m-sink", which is, if I remember correctly, a small amount of Neutronium, which essentially creates a miniature black hole that consumes whatever is in its reach up to a limit (I think).

In the novel in question ("The Temporal Void"), a planet has been destroyed this way. However, the planet has not been consumed completely, but since the core has been consumed it broke apart before the m-sink could devoure the rest.

A similar device could work on a sun (maybe even better, since a sun or gas giant may be more... fluid, though it probably depends on the amount of handwavium you want to employ.

EDIT: To clarify the purpose of this post and the use of Neutronium: The name "neutronium" is most commonly used to describe the exotic matter state in the core of neutron stars, which have a collapsed matter state due to the immense gravitational pressure of the neutron star. Neutron stars are the most dense celestial bodies known to exist apart from black holes. The books dont describe in detail what exactly happens inside the hawking m-sink, but in essence the device has something similar to an event horizon, which collects matter in order to increase the radius of the m-sink, thus allowing it to absorb matter even faster, until a threshold is reached.

After this point, I'm not sure what happens. I think the most of the absorbed matter is expelled in a similar manner that pre-neutron stars shed their hull going supernova - just in very small. I will update this as soon as I find the relevant passage in the book. A similar device has been employed in another novel by the same author, "The Neutronium Alchemist"

Take this as an addition to other good answers.

  • $\begingroup$ Hi Doomed Mind and welcome to the question. In general I like your answer, but could you look it up again (if possible and not to much of a hassle). While Neutronium*+*Handwavium is of course a possible solution, copying the exact already thought-out solution here would maybe be better. Worldbuilders can then modify the (pseudo-)science explanation with their own handwavium, according to their needs. But that is just my minor nitpick, you get my vote anyway. And thank you for pointing me to that trilogy. $\endgroup$
    – JFBM
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ @J_F_B_M thanks for the suggestion. I have updated my answer and will complete it as soon as I find the relevant information. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 19:29

Well the main issue with killing a star via supernova is that supernovas require a massive star. So You couldn't, for example, destroy Sol without upping its mass fairly considerably. Dark matter might help with that, but dark matter is weird stuff (Neptune would have been considered "dark matter" til it was discovered due to the fact that it had significant gravity, but nobody had seen the damn thing).

Anyway, say you now have a Sol that is, by hook or by crook, at ~1.4 Solar masses. The next thing you need to do is speed up its fusion reaction so that it explodes due to core collapse. There are a few ways to imagine that, but the most interesting to me is the relativistic baseball. Get a sizable thing traveling fast enough that the star's atoms can't get out of the way and accelerates fusion. This may take more than one shot. The fun way to do that would be to abuse warp technology and reference frames. The thing that is moving FTL only has to appear to be doing so in the star's reference frame. To the object, it may appear to be traveling at a reasonable speed but over a decreased distance.

  • $\begingroup$ Dark matter is weird stuff because no one really knows if it exists or what it is. It's just all the equations 'work' if you apply a particular fudge factor, that is consistent with a particular quantity of 'missing' mass. So as a Sci-fi 'thing' dark matter could be practically anything, and thus really well suited for 'putting out' stars. $\endgroup$
    – Sobrique
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 11:52
  • $\begingroup$ Good point about the reference frames $\endgroup$
    – thanby
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ 1a supernova only require ~1.4 solar masses total. $\endgroup$
    – Yakk
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 22:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Yakk Good catch. Edited. $\endgroup$
    – Jake
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 15:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Sobrique Based on something I read on the physics se, apparently dark matter is a catch all term for gravity without observed mass. That's where I read the Neptune example. $\endgroup$
    – Jake
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 15:08

If you have FTL perhaps you could try ramming target stars with FTL starhips. Depending on how FTL works that might explode stars.

I personally hate the idea of destroying planets and stars billions of years old and which may be useful for billions of years in the future merely for victory in some ephemeral conflict. If all advanced civilizations do that habitable planets will be used up far faster than they are created and the galaxy will run out of habitable worlds in a cosmically short time.

  • $\begingroup$ I had the same idea. Even a small mass at rest will be massive if it is moving close to the speed of light. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 13:24

What ever method you choose, make sure that the method for destroying the star ties in with something else in the story that is NOT about destroying the star. For example, if the "bomb" is small enough to fit in a hand, then it could also be a (misunderstood) child's toy that figures in the story in a plot line that is not directly tied into the plot line in which the star is destroyed. But of course, when the star is destroyed with the child's toy, then this provides an opportunity to tie the two otherwise independent plot lines together. Oh. I think I'm going to cry. :)

Oh. That doesn't explain HOW to destroy the star.

How's this:

The star's destruction was assured when, a long time ago, the star was engineered (the engineering marvel remains unexplained) to remain stable in spite of being so supermassive that it should have immediately collapsed into a black hole. But -- thanks to the engineers who stabilized it -- it's a star. The also engineered a "thermostat" that needs an adjustment every 150 Million years. It got lost. It was recovered. It became a toy. Somebody figured it out and used it to destabilize the star. It collapsed. Ta Da!...

Oh darn. That's not "a bomb"

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site. This is a nice plot suggestion that is outside of the scope of the question asked, thus it is discouraged here. $\endgroup$
    – Samuel
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 20:00
  • $\begingroup$ Oh. Sorry. I should have said. "Destroy the star with a toy". $\endgroup$
    – SciFiGuy
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 20:01
  • $\begingroup$ Actually you should have explained how a toy can destroy a star. $\endgroup$
    – Samuel
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 20:04
  • $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, this does not answer the current question. With time you'll be able to write comment. And that would have been a good one. I suggest you to read the tour to get an idea how stack exchange works. You can also peruse the help center. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ You really need to justify your idea. Engineering can solve many problems, but stopping a star from collapsing likely isn't one of them. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 21:22

Your already using some "tech" that is still not possible. So here are a few futurish options.

Warp the star. You have warp drive technology. This compresses space/time in front of you and expands it behind you. Do this to a star but stop the process with the start partly compressed and partly expanded.

Negative Mass Bomb- Just like it sounds, send a bomb that explodes with negative mass. This should theoretically tear a hole in space and suck in the star.

Move the Star - Who says you actually have to blow it up? If the end game is to destroy the planets in the system, just move the star. Use some sort of ultra dense (had more gravity then the star) material that is protected by some anti gravity shielding. Then all you have to do is launch it near the star. It either will suck in the star or pull it into an orbit, thus disturbing the orbit of the bodies around it.

If you want to go Star Trek meta: Omega particle. If memory serves me right, only a couple are needed to restart the universe.


Focused Graviton Beams

So thanks to the LIGO gravitational detector and others that are being built we can start to test out our theories about gravitational waves, gravity, and other things.

Extrapolate forward a while and we finally find the graviton particle.
This lets us really start playing around with gravity, learning how to manipulate it, generate it, reverse it, etc.

An interesting thing about stars is that there is a lot of inward pressure from gravity trying to squeeze them down really small. At the same time there is a lot of outward pressure from fusion keeping that from happening, meaning that the star is in a kind of balancing act.

If you were able to focus gravity into a tight, strong beam you could potentially disrupt that balance, causing a chain reaction and kill the star.

  • $\begingroup$ The LIGO detection doesn't tell us anything we didn't know about gravitational waves (gravity waves are something else!) or "how they work". They allow us to observe phenomena that generate such waves which are exactly as understood, or the hardware and signal analysis wouldn't work! $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 4:13
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz Glad to know that we know everything it is possible to know about gravity. I haven't been keeping up on it as much... how did they resolve that graviton thing? It was my understanding that gravitational waves were predicted in 1916 but not confirmed until LIGO started up a few weeks ago, so there is still time for us to learn something new from actual observation vs mathematical modeling. It may be that I'm not using the right words though, and so I'll see about reworking my answer. Thank you for the feedback :) $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ Well, waves are indirectly detected via orbital decay rate of pulsars. Modeling the phenomenon correctly allows them to look at the signal and figure out what caused it. If it's totally bizzare and didn't conform to models, that would be new. If it's close enough but subtlety different that indicates something to figure out in the details. In particular, gravity is dead solid perfect only down to the energy scale where it becomes important in QM and at very small distances; in short, the big band and black holes. ... $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ And black holes are being looked at! So the inspiral (astronomical distances) ought to be free of deviation from theory: additional bumps will inform about (e.g.) other objects nearby that it ran into. The merger itself might have some new detail that makes subtle impressions on the signal, and that may be details of quantum gravity we don't know or other objects affecting the situation. Long term observation of many such events and with moltiple instruments will be needed to determine which. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 16:58
  • $\begingroup$ Gravaton thing: any time you quantize a continuous field, particles show up in the math. Gravitational forces on individual particles are so small that it's usually ignored; detecting an all-or-nothing lump of momentum change from gravity will be far too small of a lump size to detect with any forseeable technology. You elude to a laser-type phenomena with gravity, which indeed depends on the existance of particles (as Bosons) even if they're not detected individually. That's worth developing. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 17:03

I think, that implementing small black hole inside the star should eat it from inside eventually. Depends how big black hole you can transport too.

Also depends, how your FTL works (some works on making "shortcut" between two points in space), it could be possible to make shortcut from the sun core to the planet in question (if FLT engine is requested to be at one end of the shortcut, it could be on the planet surface or near to it)

Locals would probably not like the idea, so the Item need would to be transported to low orbit by FTL too.

Imagine ship making the FLT shortcut from your system to theirs, near the planet, then prepare another from that orbit to the sun core (and do not use it, but keep it as big for as long it could last) - it would do big damage to the planet by many ways - the radiation inside sun is massive and you rare projecting it on the planet. the planet will suffer big slap wave, sipping atmosphere to the sun by gravity and having it replaced by some sun material exploding to hole with less density.

Even if such ship and FTL tunnel would be destroyed nearly instantly, the shock wave could kill everything on the planet surface (and near both ways - underground bunkers as well as orbital satellites. Also vulcanic activity would erupt on big scale.

Bonus is, that you can later use that dead body of planet as valuable source, or even make there colony in relatively good distance from sun and with a large planetary body to use and terraforming.


Threaten to violate causality.

Some have speculated that there is a need for a "cosmic censorship principle" to prevent the creation of closed time like curves and causal paradoxes.

So start to build a time machine in or near your enemy's solar system and expect that system's star to "inexplicably" go nova. That big ball of plasma will very effectively mask any small local paradox that happened a few minutes earlier.

Beware. Do not ignore the minority opinion that there is a cosmic morality principle as well. If so it is your solar system that may be destroyed as soon as your evil plan is placed in irrevocable motion.

Warning: this plot has been used. I read the story many years ago. Can't remember author or title.

  • $\begingroup$ It's in Charles Stross's Iron Sunrise $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 13:44

Create a black hole storage container ('bomb') and open it in/near the sun. It will suck in the entire sun with a flash of radiation coming off the infalling matter. The loss of sunlight will be devastating to that solar system population if the flash does not kill them first.
Given the relatively small size of the sun, the black hole does not have to be that big.

Now, how you are going to contain that black hole inside the container?
Easy, use some sort of 'black hole plasma' contained in magnetic or gravitational wave fields (give these a nice name like Feynman fields) and that are kept stable by evaporating Hawking radiation.
When reaching the target, switch off this containing field.


My answer would be Massively scaled stellar mining rig/barge/station (Mining star matter) so fast that leave it for a day or two you'll notice changes happening in the star...

But we can go better... You have warp technology right so why not warp stellar matter using hawking radiation(black hole) to another enemy of yours? suck the star of its matter and throw that matter to your enemy! Not only it could collapse a star since it will be missing alot of its mass since you are warping it away but hit another enemy as well with it! Imagine a star being pulled apart and its mass being sent to your enemies! It will not go supernova(as far as i know) but you can be sure that they got nothing on your stellar sized plasma flame thrower...

Since this is a galactic strategic weapon price shouldn't be an issue constructing a warp ring enough to engulf atleast 10% of the star or 1% for that matter depending on how fast you want the star gone or your enemy gone... take your pick!

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure I understand what you're saying, nor the assumption about "warp technology". $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Mar 20, 2016 at 20:08

A surprisingly large amount of over engineering has been proposed. Do armies destroy a mountain that the enemy has camped on or just the camp? Warfare tends to follow the principle of using no more than necessary? Why destroy the star when you can make the planet just as uninhabitable with a few nukes or an asteroid strike?
Some of the consequences are hopelessly naive. If you move a star from your enemies planet and they are incapable of moving the planet, moving to another planet, moving to a space station or setting up a fusion reactor and swarm of lights in orbit, then you are far more technologically advanced and you cannot hope to win. (unless your attacks use 1000 000 times more energy than it takes them to stop the attack)
Why are they fighting, for habitable planets, whats habitable to one alien species may not be to another. Why don't they grab an asteroid and live in space colonies? The asteroid belt provides enough raw materials to make 1000's of times the earths area in space habitats, no implausible physics required and everything you can get on a planet can be easily provided. (The ISS already has many of the features, with spinning for gravity and radiation shielding just being slightly too heavy0

  • $\begingroup$ Might this be better as a comment (if condensed) than an answer? It doesn't suggest a possible method, thought it does bring up some interesting and important questions. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 22:00

Just about the simplest solution I can think of is using wave forms. Flame from the sun or otherwise is the vibration of molecules.by generating a force wave capable of stopping this vibration essentially freezing the star in place could be all It would take.. Be it with lasers tractorbeams or a mechanical trap pulsating expansions and contractions targeted at alligning the mass into a stable non burning mass.

To add a little clarity as commenter did seem to have missed the key to the proposition,3d wave forms are a new science in function where scientists are using speakers to manipulate matter in a 3 dimensional area. levitating small Every day objects with no more than sound waves. Upscaling this technology to calculate the estimated location of the particles composing the sun,a frequency targeted at moving the particles into a state where they would align and sit in a state of rest to stop the chain reaction of the sun's burn. More like using a pulse grenade to put out a house that was on fire. The burst would not equal the total mass force of the house but merely vibrate the air so as to flash off the flame.

  • $\begingroup$ This answer... does not make sense. The vibration of molecules is heat. By suggesting you stop this vibration, all you're suggesting is freezing the star to 0 Kelvin. That doesn't destroy it. $\endgroup$
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 18:32
  • $\begingroup$ Have fun trying to get the energy needed to (continuously, no less) levitate the mass of a star to propagate in a vacuum, I guess. $\endgroup$
    – timuzhti
    Commented Feb 19, 2016 at 9:05
  • $\begingroup$ The point is not to continuously levitate the star itself but to focus on a sort of frequency targeted at making one solitary push to alligning all the molecules to perfect cohesion. This would likely only require knowing the exact makeup of it is and what the dentist solid form possible would be for its gravitational force then forcing the solid state. No doubt the force required to accomplish this would need to exceed the millions of tons of pressure over all though a chain reaction event may be calculatable...ie structures formed at surface to penetrate and amplify the effect of x movement. $\endgroup$
    – Firobug
    Commented Feb 20, 2016 at 1:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Firobug I love how you combine the words only, exact, it (relating to a star) and <superlative> possible. When you can gather all the information required you can probably calculate the correct flap of a solar butterfly to cause the same effect with minimal investment. $\endgroup$
    – JFBM
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 19:44

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