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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

Nuclear Explosion Lines & Spikes

By April 11, 2013

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When I compiled this photo gallery of spectacular and famous nuclear explosions I came across some interesting lines and spikes in some of the images. Do you know the explanations for the phenomena seen in these photos? The first image is of a nuclear test that took place as part of Operation Teapot at the Nevada Test site. See the wavy lines on the righthand side of the picture? Find out what they are?

Operation Teapot Nuclear Test (National Nuclear Security Administration)

This next photo was taken less than a millisecond after one of the Tumbler-Snapper nuclear tests, again at the Nevada Test Site. The spikes that protrude from the bottom of the fireball are seen under special circumstances. Do you know what causes them.

Nuclear Explosion Showing Rope Tricks (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)


November 23, 2008 at 6:42 pm
(1) Paul says:

From the website of the top photo, the following is posted below the picture:

Sounding rockets may be launched just before a device explodes so that their vapor trails may be used to record the passage of the otherwise invisible shock wave.

From Wikipedia:

Streaks of smoke seen to the side of the explosion at detonation are vertical smoke flares which are used to observe the shock wave.


July 6, 2009 at 9:45 am
(2) a_bab says:

For the second photo, the spikes are created by the energy shockwave that was speeding down the steel anchorage cables a bit faster than in the air (such test explosions were held on a (30-50 m) tall steel-frame tower)

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