Here's what it looks like when you blow up nukes in space

Back in the summer of 1962, the US government set off the only hydrogen bomb ever to blow up in space. Here are some newly-released images that reveal the lightshow people saw back on Earth.

This is from a report on NPR, using recently-declassified images collected by Peter Kuran, who made the documentary Nukes In Space:

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According to NPR's Robert Krulwich:

The plan was to send rockets hundreds of miles up, higher than the Earth's atmosphere, and then detonate nuclear weapons to see: a) If a bomb's radiation would make it harder to see what was up there (like incoming Russian missiles!); b) If an explosion would do any damage to objects nearby; c) If the Van Allen belts would move a blast down the bands to an earthly target (Moscow! for example); and - most peculiar - d) if a man-made explosion might "alter" the natural shape of the [Earth's magnetic] belts.

That's right - the plan was to actually see if we could change the planet's magnetic field - a field, by the way, that protects us from deadly radioactive particles borne on the solar wind. Awesome. Erm, I think. (Thanks, Gregory!)