Photo of a Nuclear Explosion Less than 1 Millisecond After Detonation

This might look like some kind of microscopic organism, but it’s actually a high-speed photograph of a nuclear explosion. It was captured less than 1 millisecond after the detonation using a rapatronic camera, which is capable of exposure times as brief as 10 nanoseconds (one nanosecond is one billionth of a second). The photograph was shot from roughly 7 miles away during the Tumbler-Snapper tests in Nevada (1952). The fireball is roughly 20 meters in diameter, and three times hotter than the surface of the sun.

(via Wikipedia via Damn Interesting)

  • Jeremy McMahan

    Ok, that’s the coolest.

  • Anonymous

    I am become Death, destroyer of worlds.

  • mike pearson

    Well, that’s a bit of a mind screwing isn’t it?
     Shot from 7 miles away at a shutter speed… in 1952…that I didn’t know existed …today.
     On top of which, that is a photograph of some seriously cosmic shit going on there. 
    It does make a country boy wonder about what technological capabilities  are out there now…60 years later.

  • Gary O’Brien

    All thanks to the pioneering work of Harold “Papa Flash” Edgerton, who pioneered the use of strobe lights in photography. His work for EG&G photographing the early nuclear tests was crucial in understanding the function of the early devices.


  • Matty

    And I thought 1/8000th of second was fast. Holy crap! 

  • xpirex

    Pure evil…

  • spike

    Ouch…. physics at that level is just bloody scary…. great image!

  • Dave

    I just read something about this yesterday in a book on high speed photography. If I am recalling this right the camera had three shutters. The last step in the exposure is when thin threads of lead were vaporized in front of the film plane to protect the film from the intense light. Or something like that. This is one of those images that is equally beautiful/horrible. Kim Kardashian pics are the same way…….

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  • Pax Rolfe

    Exactly what I say when I think to myself that the F-117 Stealth fighter prototype first flew in the late 60’s. Today’s latest is over 50 year old technology.

  • melanerpes

    The “utters” are plasma cones propagating down the guy wires supporting the tower on which the device sat.

  • Anonymous

    And the hottest!

  • Pete Boyd

    “The maiden flight of the demonstrators occurred on 1 December 1977″ –

  • stanimir stoyanov

    I’ve read there’s a museum in the States (in LA? not sure) where you can go through a lot of these rapatronic shots one by one. I guess that’s pretty mind-blowing. I wonder if these have been digitized and posted on the internet.

  • Marc Garrido

    I’m really impress, not also by the
    photograph itself. But for the capacity of this camera in those early years.

  • His Shadow


  • Drobertsrn

    I agree.

  • Jwalkerbl

    If you got that close to something even NEARLY as hot as the sun for even a split second, you would spontaneously catch on fire and this says that it’s THREE times that!

  • R Nelson

    whats up with the phone poles in back of pic,, horses-hit

  • Mgonzale

    There is this famous saying by arthur c clarke… “the future isnt what it used to be”. He said that “the one thing that I never would have expected is that, after centuries of wonder and imagination and aspiration, we would have gone to the moon… and then stopped”. Its depressing… Technology hasn’t advanced that much in the last 60 years, at least the sort of technologies that have massive implications. We have faster computers that use less power sure… and most of the realizations of modern algorithms were written down by some greek or another thousands of years ago. Some food for thought. I hope we can get out of this funk.

  • Basilgg


  • Steve

    It is only a ms after explosion, wait for the next frame and they’ll be gone …

  • Richard
  • Jennashukran

    it’s actually much older. In fact, it were the Horten brothers who engineered the first stealth plane. First test flight was in 1935. They even saw combat experience at the end of WWII. Allied forces confiscated plans and planes from the Germans in Operation Paperclip. See Horten 229

  • Anonymous

    Excellent read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on that.

  • Wes Stecker

    Anyone else see “Bambi” standing at the bottom of the frame between the farthest right pole and the pole to it’s left? At least it looks like a dear outline to me. Venison for lunch?

  • freeboprich

    I think you’re thinking of the SR-71 Blackbird – it still really stuns me that something that always looked so futuristic when I was a kid was flying nearly 20 years before I was born.

  • Frank Villa

    Hint, hint: Size matters. ;)

  • Bulb

    Thats called the Rope Trick Effect, where the xrays propagate faster then the exploding fireball, vaporizing the ropes which held up the tower that the device was placed on.

  • Anonymous

    The article says it was taken 1/1000th of a second after detonation. It doesn’t say what the exposure speed was. Did I miss that? It said the camera is CAPABLE of a 10 billionth of a second exposure.

  • Anonymous

    Yep, you can find more info on the “rope trick” in Wikipedia.

  • Anonymous

    The camera actually works using polarization filters.  Two filters are set up at a 90-degree angle to one another, so no light passes through at all.  Between them is what is called a “Kerr Cell”, which changes the polarity of light passing through it when high voltage is applied to it.  So when the Kerr Cell is inactive, no light passes through — then they apply the appropriate voltage for just the tiniest fraction of a second when they want the photograph, and for that fraction of a second, light from the first polarization filter is “rotated” by the Kerr Cell and can pass through the second filter and expose the film.  Since there are no moving parts, the only limitation on shutter speed is how quickly the electric current can be applied to and removed from the Kerr Cell.

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  • Wesley Walsh

    I definitely see jesus’ face in it

  • Maxbond

    Could it be that the microorganism that look like this is also a nuclear reaction in a microscopic way????

  • TedNista

    why don’t we harness that energy instead of blowing s**t up.

  • Kaur Kuut

    What are you talking about? The internet is most definitely a technology that has massive implications and was nowhere to be seen 60 years ago. Then there’s also bio-tech – the ability to attatch mechanical limbs and then control them with your brain. This has immense implications.

  • John

    the internet existed back then, it was sponsored by the government and established communication between bases.

  • YopSolo

    and camera man is dead.

  • Grayson Manley

    A very rudimentary version sure, however nowhere near the scale or complexity of its current form.

  • Leigh

    Today I Learned. Thanks for that :)

  • Heyooo

    You mean iphone 50 is already there…?!! Bustards

  • RamCSingh

    “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.” – W. Gibson

  • Greg Schmidt

    I thought Al Gore invented the net. ;)

  • Patrick_W

    A lot of people think that this 50’s technology is still cutting edge, and you can’t really blame them, as they haven’t officially talked about more advanced things… But I have a suspicion, as it appears that you do, that maybe the cutting edge is much farther ahead of what we are told..

  • Mako Koiwai

    yup, in Los Alamos … lots of amazing photos … like an X-Ray of a non-nuclear bomb going off … where you can still see mechanics of the bomb

  • Justin

    Los Alamos, NM for the record. Its this nuclear focused town in the middle of new mexico. used to live nearby. great spot to snowboard but the town is kind of creepy as it has pictures of atoms everywhere.

  • Chris Eveley

    It’s not like it was designed for stealth, it was designed for lift. Its low signature on an old radar system was discovered later, and it being called a stealth plane is retroactive just because the B-2 applies a similar flying wing design.

  • Hal

    I see the StarChild from 2001.

  • Satan

    That’s Charlie Manson actually…