The First Milliseconds After An Atom Bomb Blast

On May 11, 2013 by Tim Newman

Milliseconds Rope trick effect atom bomb

The following three photographs were taken of an atomic bomb detonated by the military as part of the “Tumbler Snapper” test series.

They were taken by Harold Eugene Edgerton (1903-1990), an all-round bright chap with an intense mind. They show the blast just milliseconds after the detonation.

At first, I thought they might be fakes — they look so perfectly otherworldly, but they appear to be real.

He used Rapatronic cameras with lenses 10 feet long lined up in banks of four to 10 to take multiple shots. They were set up 7 miles from the blast zone, and each photo had an average exposure time of three millionths of a second.

They’re just amazing, look:

Atom Bomb Photo - Harold Edgerton 1

Atom Bomb Photo - Harold Edgerton 2

Atom Bomb Photo - Harold Edgerton 3

In the second shot, you can see the “rope trick effect,” where bursts of energy shoot out of the fireball along the guide ropes. Although this has nothing to do with Edgerton, here’s a 7 second video of the rope trick phenomenon in super slow motion:

Edgerton was an MIT professor and earned dozens of patents for his devices. Among other honours, he won the US Army’s Medal of Freedom (1946) and the National Medal of Science (1973).

He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (1986) and wrote or co-wrote four books.

Edgerton also produced some iconic photographs like this Milk Drop Coronet from 1957 that we probably all recognise but don’t know why. Harold Edgerton’s motto for life was:

“Work hard. Tell everyone everything you know. Close a deal with a handshake. Have fun!”

Harold Edgerton - Milk Drop Coronet - Photo - 1957





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