Have you ever wondered what would happen if humankind detonated its most powerful nuclear bomb in space? If so, then this is a video you’ll want to watch.
Detonating nukes in space isn’t a new concept; in fact, the United States government performed such a test in 1962 after launching a 1.4 megaton nuclear bomb into space almost 400 kilometers above Earth’s surface; that's nearly the same altitude occupied by the International Space Station today. The results? Interesting, to say the least.
The bomb detonated above the Pacific Ocean, right over Hawaii. The corresponding explosion produced a bright flash and a powerful electromagnetic pulse (EMP). The EMP was so strong that it darkened street lights in Hawaii, made navigation systems go haywire, and even tampered with nearby satellite systems.
But this 1.4-megaton bomb was insignificant compared to the largest nuke ever detonated, the 50-megaton Tsar Bomba.
Performing the same test with the bigger brother of the two bombs would result in a fireball four times larger than the experiment conducted in 1962, and the EMP would be tremendously more powerful. This EMP would fry hundreds of nearby satellites, put International Space Station astronauts at risk of radiation poisoning, and disrupt substantially more of Earth’s power grid.
Fortunately, you needn’t worry about a nuclear bomb of this caliber being detonated in space. Researchers learned a lot from the tests conducted in 1962, and one of the lessons learned was that detonating nukes in space isn’t a good idea. That said, it’ll probably never happen again.