Enlarge / This well-known photograph was taken (extremely) shortly after the detonation of a nuclear device during Operation Tumbler-Snapper.
The projecting spikes are known as a rope trick effect. (credit: US Department of Defense)
From 1945 until the practice was ended in 1963 with the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the US conducted 210 above-ground nuclear weapons tests.
The majority of those took place at the Nevada National Security Site, then on remote Pacific atolls. Obviously, since the purpose of the tests was to understand this powerful new class of weapon, all of the tests were captured with multiple high-speed cameras (running at roughly 2,400 frames per second).
And until now, many of those films have languished in classified vaults.
But Greg Spriggs and his colleagues at Lawrence Livermore National Labs (LLNL) are rescuing and declassifying many of them, posting them on YouTube in the process.
The first 64 declassified films were uploaded this week, with footage from Operations Upshot-Knothole, Castle, Teapot, Plumbbob, Hardtack I, Hardtack II, and Dominic.
And they’re utterly mesmerizing.
In fact, they’re truly awesome, in the literal sense of the word.
For example, watch how the fireball grows down along the test tower and guide wires during the initial states of the Tesla shot during Operation Teapot.
This test took place on March 1, 1955 in Nevada and was just 7 kilotons—a mere firecracker compared to later thermonuclear devices.
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