Starfish Prime

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Starfish Prime was a high-altitude nuclear test conducted by the United States of America on July 9, 1962, a joint effort of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and the Defense Atomic Support Agency (which became the Defense Nuclear Agency in 1971). The Thor missile carrying the Starfish Prime warhead actually reached a maximum height of about 1100 km (just over 680 miles), and the warhead was detonated on its downward trajectory when it had fallen to the programmed altitude of 400 kilometres (250 mi). The nuclear warhead detonated at 13 minutes and 41 seconds after liftoff of the Thor missile from Johnston Island. Starfish Prime caused an electromagnetic pulse which was far larger than expected, so much larger that it drove much of the instrumentation off scale, causing great difficulty in getting accurate measurements. The Starfish Prime electromagnetic pulse also made those effects known to the public by causing electrical damage in Hawaii, about 1,445 kilometres (898 mi) away from the detonation point, knocking out about 300 streetlights, setting off numerous burglar alarms and damaging a telephone company microwave link. The EMP-damaged microwave link shut down telephone calls from Kauai to the other Hawaiian islands. After the Starfish Prime detonation, bright auroras were observed in the detonation area as well as in the southern conjugate region on the other side of the equator from the detonation. According to one of the first technical reports, "The visible phenomena due to the burst were widespread and quite intense; a very large area of the Pacific was illuminated by the auroral phenomena, from far south of the south magnetic conjugate area (Tongatapu) through the burst area to far north of the north conjugate area ... At twilight after the burst, resonant scattering of light from lithium and other debris was observed at Johnston and French Frigate Shoals for many days confirming the long time presence of debris in the atmosphere. An interesting side effect was that the Royal New Zealand Air Force was aided in anti-submarine maneuvers by the light from the bomb. It was one of five tests conducted by the USA in outer space as defined by the FAI. It produced a yield equivalent to 1.4 megatons of TNT. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]





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