Sunday, August 26, 2007


When I read Libby’s comment on my recent Radial Lightning post, the words “cosmic eyeball” leaped out at me.

For I have seen a veritable Cosmic Eyeball. A photograph of one, anyway.

Several years ago, back when Elder Daughter resided in Cambridge, Massachusetts, we spent a few hours with her knocking around the MIT museum. This was one of the images we saw:

Mystery Eye
The Cosmic Eyeball.

It does resemble an eyeball, does it not? One with a decidedly malevolent aspect.

Any idea what it is? Put your best guess in the Comments. The answer - and another image - is below the fold.

Mystery Eye Again
Another Cosmic Eyeball.

Those Evil Eyes you’re looking at are nothing less than atomic fireballs - ground, not airburst tests - taken within a millisecond of detonation. Walrilla and Og were close; Dax and BobG were even closer; but Velociman snagged the cigar (with a little help from his 100 Suns book.)

The images were captured by Rapatronic high-speed cameras developed by Dr. Harold Edgerton of MIT and capable of taking photographs with an effective shutter speed of 10 nanoseconds. That’s one hundred-millionth of a second, a timespan during which light itself travels less than 100 feet. The cameras were located seven miles from Ground Zero.

Below the fold is a photo of the HARRY shot from Operation Upshot-Knothole in 1953, as V-man points out; the pic above the fold is from an unnamed test circa 1952. In the HARRY photo, you can see the ghostly image of the shot tower just before it was engulfed by the expanding fireball.

The spikes you see protruding from below the fireball are caused by the shot tower guy wires, blasted into glowing plasma by the bomb’s thermal radiation before the fireball shock front can engulf them. This effect was dubbed the “Rope Trick.”

The sinister mottled appearance of the fireball is the result of the vaporized debris of the bomb and the shot cab splashing against the back wall of the fireball’s hydrodynamic shock wave.

Sinister, yes: for HARRY is the Bomb that Killed the Duke.

Several months ago, I wrote a post that mentioned the Upshot-Knothole test series:
One of the Upshot-Knothole tests sent fallout drifting over St. George, Utah, where John Wayne, Susan Hayward, and Agnes Moorehead would shortly afterward film The Conqueror, in which the Duke played a young Genghis Khan (!) in what may have been his worst film ever. He, Hayward, Moorehead, and at least 88 others of the 220 people of the cast and crew later succumbed to cancers that were very likely caused by radiation from that fallout.
That test was HARRY.

The Evil Eye, indeed.

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