1. Education
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

Trinitite, Atomsite or Alamogordo Glass


Trinitite Sample (Anne Helmenstine)
Trinitite, also called Atomsite or Alamogordo Glass, is the glassy material that was formed at Ground Zero of the Trinity Test, the world's first atomic explosion. Most trinitite is green, although it may be more dirt-colored or red or yellow, depending on the chemical composition of the material that was melted or vaporized by the blast.

I've been interested in trinitite for a while, both because of its historical value and because much of it is very attractive and I'm a sucker for pretty rocks. Trinitite also is mildly radioactive... not dangerous, but probably not your first choice of "rocks I want to eat".

When I was at the National Atomic Testing Museum, I was lucky enough to pick up a piece of trinitite. They also had some beautiful vivid yellow leaded glass that was used for shielding at the Hanford Site in Washington. Note that you can't go out and collect your own trinitite at the Trinity Site in New Mexico, but it is legal for people who collected trinitite before the prohibition to sell their stock. Also, there is a lot of fake trinitite out there. You basically need to know the radiation signature from the Trinity Test to tell the real deal from the imitation, since most fakes have been doped with radioactive material.

One thing that surprised me at the Nevada Test Site was the apparent absence of glassy material, which presumably would be similar to trinitite. The Sedan crater seemed to have a glassy base, but the desert at Ground Zero for the atmospheric tests looked much like the desert anywhere else. The soil was indistinguishable, though you could see craters and disruptions from some tests. Some of the vegetation survived the blasts (such as some of the joshua trees), while the rest had regrown. Wildlife was apparent, too. I saw a pair of pronghorn antelope in an area that was actively used for tests.

Anyway, I wanted to share my treasure with you. If you want a sample of your own, you can pick up trinitite online at various sites. Just be sure to buy from a reputable seller!

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.