Nuclear kaboom lines

What is the mechanism causing the straight lines in night time nuclear explosions.


(fixed url tags - Nick)
[Note: This message has been edited by Nickrz]

It would appear that some heavy debris was blown upward and has fallen back to the surface.

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Man, that’s a great question. I’ve always wondered about those things (they look like smoke/vapor trails) too. I’ve seen them in pics/movies of different nuclear explosions, sometimes there are only 3 or 4 of them. They sometimes appear to “go” straight up, yet you never see them forming - they’re just there.

      • Those are trails from smoke rockets, launched shortly before the explosion so that the airflow around the explosion could be filmed. They don’t have anything to do with the nuke bomb itself. You may have noticed that most official photos get a “good” angle of them. - MC

Thanks, MC. There doesn’t seem to be a hell of a a lot of “air flow” around the mushroom cloud itself - where is the blast wave going in those photos? I would think the smoke from those rockets would be gone like dandelion fluff!

Well, I suppose that is what they were trying to determine. The best explanation that I can come up with for why the smoke trails are not blown away is that the shockwave experienced on the ground is due to displacement of air on the ground while there is a little less displacement the higher up you go. Comparatively, the diameter of the mushroom cloud is tiny compared to the cloud at the base. On a general note, what is gamma (ionizing) radiation made of? In addition, what is the scale on these photos?

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I thought you meant nuclear kaboom lines like “That’s All, Folks!”

Here is the scoop an radiation

Alpha- Fast moveing Helium nuclei that doesn’t get very far because it collides with air, slows down and captures electrons and becomes regular helium.

Beta- Very high energy electrons. The tend to get farther that alpha, but the also dont get far in air.

Gamma- Short wavelength photons. They are beyond X-ray on the spectrum, and if they interact with electons shells, the have quite enough energy to blow the electron right off the molecule/atom, ionizing it. Gamma is the key source of EMP, because it liberates a large number of electron. The urrent generated then causes very high intesity RF waves.

Black body- photons at almost every wavelength. They arent generated by the nuclear reaction, but by the intense heat of the fireball. BBR photon energy levels go all the way to soft x-rays.
Neutron- Fast moving neutrons that are disruptive enough to tear up cell membranes and and dna. These also are captured by everyday atoms turning them to radioactive isotopes.

Isotopes - Byproducts of the fuel fission include iodine-131, strontium-90 and 89, and cesium-137 which are very biologicly harmful.

Note that Alpha,Beta,Gama, Neutron, and X-ray are all considered ionizing radiation.
And the isotopes are dangerous because you get them on you, and they eventual decay to produce ionizing radiation.

If this all isn’t enough, a 1MT blast creats 5 kilotons of nitrous oxides, significant amounts are injected into the stratosphere where they deplete the Ozone layer.

Have a nice day :slight_smile:

While we’re on this subject, I have a closely related question.
I recall reading that a blast from a 1MT nuke is actually more destructive than a blast from 1MT of TNT. Is this true, and why would it be? Because it originates from a smaller mass?. Consider both blasts to be at the same altitube.

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Well, technically, this is not necessarily true. The typical gamma ray may be of shorter wavelength than the typical X ray, but the distinction between the two comes from how they are generated. Very short wavelength photons generated from nuclear radiation are called gamma rays. Very short wavelength photons from other sources (usually “bremsstrahlung” in a CRT) are called X rays.

mangeorge - I would think that it was the radiation in the nuke that would be more damaging. With TNT all you have is fire, smoke and shock wave. In a nuclear explosion you have your x-ray, gamma ray and all those other rays flying around doing countless more damage.

My question is exactly how much is 1 mega-ton of TNT? I’m having a hard time imaging it in my mind. Are we talking about a dumpster full or a dump-truck?

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      • The smoke trails are still about where they started because not much of the air really moves. Some of it does heat up and rise, but most of it springs back to about where it was before. - The shock wave moves through the air. - MC

A megaton explosion of TNT would be a million tons of TNT!. I think that would be a bit more than a dumptruck. That is why what mangeorge heard is somewhat puzzling. A megaton nuclear bomb is defined as such because it is supposed to have a blast effect equivalent to that of a million tons of TNT.

I know this is a silly analogy, But what would do the most damage. A pound of feathers or a pound of lead dropped on one’s head. :slight_smile:
I do wish I could recall more about what I heard, but some searching has turned up nothing. I do have my doubts, that’s why I asked. So I’ll continue my quest.
BTW; The picture linked above is, as someone said, a thing of “Terrible Beauty” isn’t it?