Our local paper ran an article noting the fact that 50 years ago today, the project codenamed Starfish Prime turned the Pacific night into day, at least for a few minutes. The flash and resulting atmospheric lightshow was caused by a 1.45 megaton warhead detonated at an altitude of 248 miles over Johnston Atoll, about 860 miles from Hawaii.
The electro-magnetic pulse from the blast knocked out about 300 streetlights, and gave scientists their first real world example of the effect of a high altitude explosion on electrical systems. But the effect witnessed by the most people was the flash itself.
Here’s Waikiki just before 11pm that night.
And then this is what it looked like just a few seconds later after the detonation.
Reports at the time said “the blue-black tropical night suddenly turned into a hot lime green. It was brighter than noon. The green changed into a lemonade pink and finally, terribly, blood red. It was as if someone had poured a bucket of blood on the sky.” Sounds like it was quite a sight.
And given that this is the view from my patio, I would have had a great seat if I was around 50 years ago.
I do wish I had the chance to view a nuclear explosion, but on the other hand, I hope I never really get to see one up close.