On July 9, 1962, a nuclear weapon was detonated in space by the U.S. It had an explosive yield of 1.45 megatons, which is about 100 times more than what was dropped on Hiroshima. It was code-named “Starfish Prime.”
The nuclear weapon was sent 250 miles into space above the Pacific Ocean, where it was then detonated.
Now, the program has been declassified, including footage over 50 years later.
The researchers wanted to see the effect it would have on the Van Allen Radiation Belts, which are bands of high-energy protons and electrons that follow the Earth’s natural magnetic field. Ultimately, it was to see if it could be manipulated for national defense purposes. Unwittingly, the blast increased the radiation levels of the Van Allen Belts.
Watch as a nuclear weapon is detonated in space:
According to IFL Science, The “controlled” explosions were one of 5 suborbital tests conducted by the U.S. during the Cold War and the nuclear arms race, as part the effects of nuclear weapons in high altitudes/outer space. Once detonated, the warheads generate not only heat and light, but incredible amounts of X-rays and gamma rays. Effects of the blast were felt thousands of miles away, and still resonate today.
Scientists learned plenty from the experiment, and bystanders from Hawaii to New Zealand were treated to a view of “rainbow skies,” but according to NPR, this “greatest man-made light show” actually resulted from radioactive particles coming into contact with oxygen and nitrogen in the Earth’s atmosphere. And the particles took years to eventually return to normal levels, Huffington Post wrote.
Declassified U.S. nuclear test film:
The explosion was about 30 miles higher than the ISS, but was so powerful that it caused serious problems with power lines, circuits, and even street lights in Hawaii. From New Zealand to Hawaii, planes experienced electrical surges, and a giant aurora was seen in the skies.
Ironically, five U.S. satellites were destroyed by the intense radiation, along with one Russian satellite. Thank God we did not do this again.