Cold War nuclear testing show effects on space's weather


Human actions don't just have an effect on Earth's weather, but also the weather in space.

Starfish, Argus, Teak, Yucca. These are all names of nuclear tests the U.S. ran in the 1950s and '60s.

And while they left a nearly permanent mark on the planet, declassified data shows the tests also affected unseen forces around Earth.

It's usually only solar radiation that affects space weather. Most of that radiation is sent back out into space, but sometimes it gets through the magnetosphere. That radiation can damage satellites, interrupt communications and cause the aurora borealis.

SEE MORE: You Can Now Watch Declassified Nuclear Weapons Tests ... On YouTube

RELATED: 1964: Mississippi's nuclear bomb

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1964: Mississippi's nuclear bomb
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1964: Mississippi's nuclear bomb

A resident constructs a homemade seismograph before the blast.

(Photo via Moncrief Photograph Collection/Mississippi Department of Archives and History)

Oct. 9, 1964

An Atomic Energy Commission worker naps while waiting for a detonation that was postponed.

(Photo via Moncrief Photograph Collection/Mississippi Department of Archives and History)

Oct. 9, 1964

A reporter naps on his car at the media observation point during a postponement.

(Photo via Moncrief Photograph Collection/Mississippi Department of Archives and History)

Oct. 9, 1964

(Photo via Moncrief Photograph Collection/Mississippi Department of Archives and History)

Residents await the blast.

(Photo via Moncrief Photograph Collection/Mississippi Department of Archives and History)

A resident constructs a homemade seismograph.

(Photo via Moncrief Photograph Collection/Mississippi Department of Archives and History)

An observer checks his watch at the scheduled time of the blast.

(Photo via Moncrief Photograph Collection/Mississippi Department of Archives and History)

News media observe the Project Salmon detonation from 3.5 miles southwest of ground zero.

(Photo via Moncrief Photograph Collection/Mississippi Department of Archives and History)

A scientist checks a seismograph at an observation point.

(Photo via Moncrief Photograph Collection/Mississippi Department of Archives and History)

A seismograph records the shockwaves from the detonation.

(Photo via Moncrief Photograph Collection/Mississippi Department of Archives and History)

(Photo via Moncrief Photograph Collection/Mississippi Department of Archives and History)

(Photo via Moncrief Photograph Collection/Mississippi Department of Archives and History)

Horace Burge's home two miles from ground zero was significantly damaged by the shock of the blast.

(Photo via Moncrief Photograph Collection/Mississippi Department of Archives and History)

Horace Burge surveys the damage to his kitchen.

(Photo via Moncrief Photograph Collection/Mississippi Department of Archives and History)

(Photo via Moncrief Photograph Collection/Mississippi Department of Archives and History)

(Photo via Moncrief Photograph Collection/Mississippi Department of Archives and History)

(Photo via Moncrief Photograph Collection/Mississippi Department of Archives and History)

Baxterville Postmaster C.E. Bond comforts his dog Old Blu after the blast.

(Photo via Moncrief Photograph Collection/Mississippi Department of Archives and History)

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But it turns out some of those Cold War tests actually mimicked the sun's natural effects in space surrounding Earth.

Some tests created distortions in Earth's magnetic fields, and one even caused its own aurora.

A few of the explosions actually created new radiation belts around the planet that stuck around for weeks or even years.

Atmospheric nuclear tests are no longer allowed, and those artificial radiation belts are long gone. But the data could help NASA protect astronauts and satellites from space radiation.

These findings are all part of a larger paper about human impact on space weather. The researchers also found anthropogenic effects from chemical experiments and low-frequency radio communications.

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