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Tsar Bomba

From Academic Kids

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Tsar Bomba casing on display at Arzamas-16

Tsar Bomba (Russian: Царь-бомба, meaning literally "Emperor Bomb") was the largest nuclear explosive device in history. It was detonated on October 30, 1961, as a test; this took place at a height of 4,000 metres over the Novaya Zemlya Nuclear Range at the Novaya Zemlya Island in the Arctic Sea; it was dropped from a Tu-95 bomber.

The name was coined in an analogy with Tsar Kolokol, an extraordinarily large bell and Tsar Cannon, an extraordinarily large howitzer. Both had been built as demonstrations of technical prowess rather than to serve as practical weapons. The bomb was meant for the same purpose. During its development, it was actually nicknamed Ivan.

Contents

Design

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The Tsar Bomba was extremely large, and was not practical for wartime use.

Tsar Bomba was a fusion bomb with a yield of about 50 megatons. (The original US estimate was 57 megatons, but since 1991 all Russian sources have cited it as "only" 50 megatons [1] (http://gawain.membrane.com/hew/Russia/TsarBomba.html).) The design was capable of approximately 100 megatons. It was purposely reduced shortly before the launch, though Nikita Khrushchev initially reported a yield of 100Mt, and cited this number in his speeches. The nuclear devices of the type used in the bomb were designed by a team of physicists headed by Academician Igor Kurchatov and included Andrei Sakharov, Victor Adamsky, Yuri Babayev, Yuri Smirnov, and Yuri Trutnev (А.Д.Сахаров, В.Б.Адамский, Ю.Н.Бабаев, Ю.Н.Смирнов, Ю.А.Трутнев).

It was not intended for use in warfare; it was developed and tested as part of the sabre-rattling between the Soviet Union and United States in the course of the Cold War. The launch date was matched to the time of the 22nd Congress of the CPSU.

Excluding the nuclear device, Tsar Bomba was designed and constructed in only 14 weeks after Khrushchev initiated the project on July 10, 1961. The bomb itself weighed 27 tonnes and was 8 metres long by 2 metres wide; a special parachute (of weight 0.8 tonne) had to be designed to allow it to be dropped from an airplane. A possibly apocryphal story claims that the fabrication of this parachute required so much raw nylon that the negligible Soviet nylon hosiery industry was noticeably disrupted.

The Tsar Bomba had its yield scaled down by replacing the uranium fusion tamper (which amplifies the reaction greatly) with one made of lead to eliminate fast fission by the fusion neutrons. For this reason it was actually a very "clean" test, with approximately 97% of the energy coming from fusion rather than fission (fusion produces little fallout compared to a fission explosion).

Detonation

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The Tsar Bomba mushroom cloud rose as high as 64km above the ground.

Tsar Bomba was detonated on October 30, 1961, over the nuclear testing range at Novaya Zemlya Island in the Arctic Sea. It was dropped from a specially modified Tu-95 bomber at 11:30 a.m. at 10,500 metres altitude by pilot Major Andrei E. Durnovtsev. The bomb was detonated at 11:33 a.m. with the aid of barometric sensors at the height 4,000 metres over the land surface (4,200 over the sea level). The fireball touched the ground and reached nearly as high as the altitude of the release plane which was already in the safe zone some 45 km away. Light from the detonation was visible 1,000 km away; the mushroom cloud rose as high as 64 km and developed to a width of 30-40 km.

The 50-Mt test was hot enough to have induced third degree burns at 100 km, and atmospheric irregularities caused blast damage up to 1,000 km away (due to atmospheric focusing, where localized regions of destructive blast damage can be created many hundreds of kilometers away); the "dirty" 100-Mt version would have laid lethal radioactivity over an enormous area.

A bomb of this magnitude has tremendous "blowback" potential to its user (the large amounts of fallout the full version would have created would have easily been dispersed onto Warsaw Pact nations were it used against a European power), while at the same time being very inefficient, as it radiates much of its energy out into space. Modern nuclear weapon tactics call for multiple smaller bombs to produce more damage on the ground (for example, using MIRVs to deliver a "carpet" of warheads over a large area). It was not practical for use as a weapon in wartime, requiring a specially modified bomber that could not be used to deliver the massive bomb to a distant target.

Because the Tsar Bomba is the highest energy device ever detonated, it also represents the highest power device ever used by humans. Since 50 Mt is 2.1x1017 joules, the power produced during the explosion was around 5.3x1024 watts or 5.3 yottawatts. This represents a power just greater than one percent of the average power output of the Sun (386 yottawatts).

See also

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External links

bg:Цар бомба de:Zar-Bombe fi:Tsar-BombaTemplate:Tsar things

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