1952 ... the moment!

"EG&G MIT coll -Atomic Bomb Explosion atop a Steel Tower photograph of shed observed at moment of atomic bomb explosion; taken at Eniwetok, ca. 1952"

... the above is the official MIT descriptive caption for the above photo. The photo is also much more than that. To start with; it is testament to amazing technical accomplishments of 'Doc' Edgerton and Edgerton, Germeshausen, and Grier, Inc. They were able to build 'cameras', that used a complex series optical shutters and rotating mirrors. which captured pictures in fractions of a millionth of a second. These cameras, commonly known as Rapatronic, opened a view into the all important physics of atomic fission and fusion. ( It gives me considerable pause to consider that, in spite of all the complex measuring devices utilized, seeing what actually happened remained such an important clue in the science of atomic weapons.) Most Rapatronic photos, including previous posts on this blog, show the shape and dynamics of the nuclear 'fireball' during it's first microseconds of expansion.

... so- what are we seeing? This the 'cab' or shack that houses the 'bomb' that sits on top of a tall tower. The cab protects the bomb or 'device' and various electronic switches and triggers from the elements during the days or weeks up until the 'test' or detonation. The tower structure it sits on, often 300 feet tall or higher, allows for better observation of events and helps to simulate 'airburst' [ since nuclear weapons are most effective when detonated at some height from the ground.

... but what are we really seeing?! Well- I'm not sure. Some notes have mentioned that the cab appears to be fluorescing with X-Ray energy making it transparent. To the left there appears to be two puffs(?). Is this the start of vaporization of the material of the cab?
Of course the most prominent feature is in the middle-upper right which looks like a giant friggin' eye! Is that the 'device' caught in some weird moment of percolating itself into and out of existence before it becomes an ... atomic explosion?

... no doubt it is one of the weirdest things I have ever seen. I do not remember where or when on the Internet I originally collected this image. But I was surprised to find it pop-up last week on a simple search with the words 'first moment of nuclear explosion'.

as a side note: I will repeat my supposition that there are a lot of Rapatronic images that have not and may never see the light of day. There seems to be a complete lack of any such images from thermo-nuclear testing. This probably is owing to the fact that they are not just weird snapshots- but scientific information that- sadly- needs to be kept secret.


rf reply said...

This is absolutely incredible, just looking at this photo sends your thoughts in all different directions. Best pic I've ever seen about our reality.

Rob Pearce said...

i think this is one of the greatest ever single photographs taken by human-kind. to see the first billionth of a second when the explosion is still within the cab whilst it glows from the intense radiation within.

As a footnote, another source on the web claims: "The (Shot Cab) ws made of glass to allow the bomb to be observed, ...but one... quirk of the explosions made those glass houses a hindrance to photography. Although the camera functions and the glass was clear, the entire picture looks blurred. Apparently, before the full blast of the bomb, neutrons and gamma radiation hit the windows. The sodium reactions to "frost" the entire glass, making it opaque.

Anonymous said...

Whoever claimed the shot cab was made of glass simply invented that for reasons known only to themselves. It's the internet, where nuts and fantasists can say what they like.

Chuck Anziulewicz said...