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    The Vela Incident
     
    On 22 September 1979, a US satellite recorded a pattern of intense flashes in a remote portion of the Indian Ocean. Moments later a distant, muffled thud was overheard by the US Navy's undersea Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS). Evidently something violent and explosive had transpired in the ocean off the southern tip of Africa. |Read More|


    Vela Satellite
    Vela Satellite
    Examination of the data gathered by satellite Vela 6911 strongly suggested that the cause of these disturbances was a nuclear weapon. The pattern of flashes exactly matched that of prior nuclear detections, and no other phenomenon was known to produce the same millisecond-scale signature. Unfortunately, US intelligence agencies were uncertain who was responsible for the detonation, and the US government was conspicuously reluctant to acknowledge it at all.

    The United States established the Vela satellite network in the 1960s for the specific purpose of monitoring compliance with the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty. Though each satellite's intended lifespan was only eighteen months, the units continued to detect detonations for years thereafter. Prior to the mysterious event of September 1979, the orbital surveillance system had successfully recorded forty-one atomic detonations, twelve of which were spotted by satellite Vela 6911.

    Though the Vela satellites were bristling with atom-bomb sensing equipment, their most effective apparatus was each unit's pair of aptly-named bhangmeters. These photodiode arrays were tuned to detect the one-millisecond burst of intense light created by a nuclear fireball, and the subsequent secondary light caused by the hydrodynamic shockwave of ionized air. The sensor's engineers had been skeptical of its potential– hence their decision to name it after the Indian variation of cannabis called "bhang"– but the predictable pattern of bright flashes proved to be an extremely effective method for detecting atomic explosions from orbit. In over a decade of operation, the network of unblinking electronic eyes had yet to record a single false positive with the atomic-bomb signature.

    Bouvet Island
    Bouvet Island
    Due to the satellites' design and their distant orbit of 70,000 miles, technicians were not furnished with the exact location of nuclear events; the sensors could only narrow the area down to a 3,000 mile radius. Available data suggested that the 1979 Vela incident occurred near Bouvet Island, a frozen scrap of earth famous as the most isolated isle in the world. The tiny island was home to a Norwegian automated weather station, and in 1964 an abandoned lifeboat of unknown origin was found there, filled with supplies.

    US intelligence concluded that a 2-4 kiloton nuclear device had likely been exploded between South Africa and Antarctica. No nations admitted responsibility for the covert test, but intelligence reports indicated that the most probable perpetrator was Israel, possibly working in cooperation with South Africa.

    An additional item of interest was a flash of auroral light that appeared over Syowa Base in Antarctica a few seconds after the Vela event, reinforcing the possibility of an EMP burst. Nuclear bursts have been known to cause patches of artificial aurora, though these colorful displays are more often due to solar energy mingling with the atmosphere. Further circumstantial evidence appeared in the weeks that followed, including reports from a doctor in Western Australia who detected trace amounts of iodine-131– a short-lived radioactive fission product– in the thyroid glands of local sheep.

    A panel dispatched to study the Vela Incident was skeptical about its nuclear origin, pointing out that only one of the two Vela satellites picked up the explosion. It may have been detected due to a malfunction caused by a small meteoroid impacting the satellite. Many, however, doubt the veracity of the panel's claims, arguing they were politically motivated.

    In the intervening years, a few new Vela-related details have surfaced. With the collapse of the South African apartheid in the early 1990s, much of the information regarding their nuclear weapons program was made public. Among these revelations were documents indicating that their first functional nuclear weapon wasn't constructed until November 1979, two months after the Vela incident. Some have hypothesized that France or Taiwan may have instead been responsible for the covert test, but evidence for either scenario is scant and circumstantial.

    Weapon Pit Mockup
    Weapon 'Pit' Mockup
    In 1994, convicted Soviet spy Dieter Gerhardt claimed that the flashes were the result of "Operation Phenix," a joint Israeli/South African weapons test conducted under the cover of bad weather. "The explosion was clean and was not supposed to be detected," Gerhardt claimed, "but they were not as smart as they thought, and the weather changed - so the Americans were able to pick it up." He did not claim to be directly involved with the operation, stating instead that he had learned of it though unofficial channels.

    Gerhardt's description of the explosion as "clean" suggests that the device may have been an "enhanced radiation" device A.K.A. a neutron bomb: an nuclear weapon with increased neutron radiation and decreased fallout. Israel has never openly admitted to possessing nuclear weapons, but in 1986 a former Israeli nuclear technician named Mordechai Vanunu furnished a London Times reporter with photographs and descriptions of Israeli atomic weapons. Shortly before that article was printed, Vanunu was abducted by undercover Israeli Mossad agents, and imprisoned for his treason.

    Perhaps one day, when the redactions have receded and declassified documents are disseminated, further light will be shed on the Vela incident of 1979. If the distinct double-flash pattern was not a nuclear detonation, the Vela event would represent the only instance in history where a Vela satellite incorrectly identified an atomic blast– in which case the true cause may forever remain unknown and/or irrelevant. In any case, the flurry of falsifications and artificial investigations churned up in the wake of the incident clearly demonstrated governments' unwavering willingness to renegotiate reality for political purposes, even in the shadow of a mushroom cloud.

    Full government findings on the incident [See page bottom] - The National Security Archive

    Source: Damninteresting.com - The Vela Incident

    Detailed write-up on nuclearweaponarchive.org



    Castle Romeo shot 1954 - Clearly showing the signature "double flash".
    Clip sourced from Atomic Filmakers
    Courtesy of VCEfilms.com


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    Posted on Sunday, December 21 @ 09:23:17 MST by sonicbom
     
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