The first atomic explosion

This July 16 marked the 83rd anniversary of the Trinity test. It was there that the first atomic explosion took place, at the expense of the United States. It took place in a remote enclave in the New Mexico desert. The first atomic bomb, that of Hiroshima, was dropped a few weeks later.

The development of nuclear weapons was raised in the wake of growing international political tension in the 1930s. Already in the midst of World War II, the U.S. effort became the Manhattan Project. The goal was to have an atomic bomb before Hitler’s Germany. By mid-1945, this research work had come to fruition.

The first atomic explosion occurred on July 16, 1945.
The first atomic explosion occurred on July 16, 1945.

Destroyer of worlds

At 05.29.45 local time on July 16, 1945, the device exploded with an energy equivalent to 19 kilotons. That’s equivalent to 19,000 tons of TNT. It left a crater in the desert floor 3 meters deep and 330 meters wide. At the moment of detonation, the surrounding mountains were illuminated for one to two seconds. The observed colors of the illumination ranged from purple to green, and finally to white. The boom from the explosion took 40 seconds to reach the observers. The shock wave could be felt 100 miles away. The mushroom cloud reached 12 kilometers.

Los Alamos director Robert Oppenheimer observed the test. He commented that the event reminded him of a line from the famous Indian text Bhagavad Gita: “I have become death, destroyer of worlds.”


In the crater, the desert sand melted into a light green glass, which was called trinitite. The crater was refilled after the test. The Army reported the event as an accidental explosion in an ammunition disposal area. About 260 people witnessed the test, none at a distance of less than 9 kilometers.

The area was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1975. It is accessible to the public during the first Saturday in April and October. There is still a small residual radiation at the site. Trinity Monument is formed of rough, dark rock in the shape of an obelisk. It is about 3.6 meters high and marks the hypocenter of the first atomic explosion.

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