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CASTLE IN THE SKY

When the US detonated the test bomb Castle Bravo on 1 March 1954 at Bikini Atoll, its yield was more than 2.5 times what had been predicted. Radiation from the blast spread as far as Australia, India and the US mainland, with traces detected in Europe.

KING OF BOMBS An explosion from the initially proposed design of the Tsar Bomba – with a yield of 100 megatons – would have almost certainly destroyed the plane that dropped it
ALAMY X1, GETTY IMAGES X1
THE BOMB THAT BOMBED The Soviets recognised that Tsar Bomba posed too much of a danger to be used
ALAMY X4, GETTY IMAGES X3

WHAT WAS THE LARGEST NUCLEAR BLAST?

Little Boy, which was dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945, had a yield of 15 kilotons (or 15,000 tons of TNT), while the Nagasaki bomb, Fat Man, reached 22 kilotons. These remain the only nuclear weapons used in warfare to date, but the constant Cold War testing of more nuclear bombs meant that their destructive power was quickly dwarfed.

On 30 October 1961, the Soviet Union tested hydrogen weapon RDS-220, although it became better known as Tsar Bomba,

King of the Bombs. Its explosion over the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic Ocean had a yield of 50 megatons – 50 million tons of TNT – and a mushroom cloud 37 miles high. Terrifyingly, Tsar Bomba had been designed to be twice as powerful, but the extent of the nuclear fallout from such a blast forced the Soviets to tone it down. They concluded the bomb could not practically be used in war, but as a propaganda weapon its impact was enormous.

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About BBC History Revealed Magazine

Beneath Henry VIII’s outward show of splendour and power lay a man crippled with insecurity and paranoia. Tracy Borman goes behind the scenes at the Tudor court to explore the private side of the Tudor king and discover what day-to-day life in his entourage would have been like. Plus: truths and myths of the Nativity story, Arctic castaway Ada Blackjack, how the Founding Fathers created the United States, the five smells that defined Georgian England, and more.