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How We Know Who's Testing Nukes

In the search for rogue nukes, researchers have discovered an unlikely tool: radio telescopes used by astronomers.

Working with astronomers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), researcher have analyzed historical data from the Very Large Array (VLA), a constellation of 27 radio telescopes near Socorro, New Mexico--and discovered that the VLA recorded a very similar pattern of disturbances during the last two American underground nuclear tests, which took place in Nevada in 1992.

This means that when states like North Korea and Iran (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to this show) test a nuclear weapon, we'll KNOW IT.

Some Hawaiian residents of the Big Island know it, since uranium has showed up in their urine, probably from uranium weapons that have been fired at the Pohakuloa Training Area. Ene News quotes researcher Jim Albertini as saying, "DOH action is needed to investigate what's causing uranium showing up in Big island resident’s urine. Three MDs and a Naturopathic doctor have patients who have tested high for uranium in urine, including levels exceeding three times the upper expected limit."

Geodetic engineer Dorota Grejner-Brzezinska says, "With (the) global availability of permanently tracking GPS networks, tremendous amounts of information are becoming available, and the infrastructure is growing. We have a great opportunity to make a tool that will aid the global community."

The ionosphere is the outermost layer of the atmosphere, which begins approximately 50 miles above the Earth's surface. It contains charged particles that can interfere with radio waves and cause measurement errors in GPS and radio telescopes, which is why both radio astronomers and geodetic scientists routinely monitor the ionosphere in order to detect these errors and compensate for them.

The North Korean bomb is believed to have had a yield of about five kilotons. According to the GPS data, the wave front of atmospheric disturbance spread outward from the test site in the village of P’unggye at approximately 540 miles per hour. It reached 11 GPS stations in South Korea, China, Japan, and Russia in that first hour.

In contrast, the Nevada tests each had yields of 20 kilotons. Each blast created a wave front that quickly covered the 700 miles from the test site to the VLA, with a top speed of approximately 1,500 miles per hour.

Researcher Jihye Park says, “Clearly, the US explosions were much bigger than the North Korean explosion. The wave fronts traveled faster, and the amplitudes were higher. There are still details missing from the North Korean test, but we can learn a lot by comparing the two events.”

Grejner-Brzezinska says, "We're talking about taking the error patterns--basically, the stuff we usually try to get rid of--and making something useful out of it."

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