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Project Argus (1958)
Between August and September 1958, the US Navy exploded three fission type nuclear bombs 480 km above the South Atlantic Ocean, in the part of the lower Van Allen Belt closest to the earth's surface. In addition, two hydrogen bombs were detonated 160 km over Johnston Island in the Pacific. The military called this "the biggest scientific experiment ever undertaken." It was designed by the US Department of Defense and the US Atomic Energy Commission, under the code name Project Argus. The purpose appears to be to assess the impact of high altitude nuclear explosions on radio transmission and radar operations because of the electromagnetic pulse (EMP), and to increase understanding of the geomagnetic field and the behavior of the charged particles in it.
This gigantic experiment created new (inner) magnetic radiation belts encompassing almost the whole earth, and injected sufficient electrons and other energetic particles into the ionosphere to cause world wide effects. The electrons traveled back and forth along magnetic force lines, causing an artificial "aurora" when striking the atmosphere near the North Pole.
The US Military planned to create a "telecommunications shield" in the ionosphere, reported in 13-20 August 1961, Keesings Historisch Archief (K.H.A.). This shield would be created "in the ionosphere at 3,000 km height, by bringing into orbit 350,000 million copper needles, each 2-4 cm long [total weight 16 kg], forming a belt 10 km thick and 40 km wide, the needles spaced about 100 m apart." This was designed to replace the ionosphere "because telecommunications are impaired by magnetic storms and solar flares." The US planned to add to the number of copper needles if the experiment proved to be successful. This plan was strongly opposed by the Intentional Union of Astronomers.
Project Starfish (1962)
On July 9, 1962, the US began a further series of experiments with the ionosphere. From their description: "one kiloton device, at a height of 60 km and one megaton and one multi-megaton, at several hundred kilometers height" (K.H.A., 29 June 1962). These tests seriously disturbed the lower Van Allen Belt, substantially altering its shape and intensity. "In this experiment the inner Van Allen Belt will be practically destroyed for a period of time; particles from the Belt will be transported to the atmosphere. It is anticipated that the earth's magnetic field will be disturbed over long distances for several hours, preventing radio communication. The explosion in the inner radiation belt will create an artificial dome of polar light that will be visible from Los Angeles" (K.H.A. 11 May 1962). A Fijian Sailor, present at this nuclear explosion, told me that the whole sky was on fire and he thought it would be the end of the world. This was the experiment which called forth the strong protest of the Queen's Astronomer, Sir Martin Ryle in the UK.
"The ionosphere [according to the under-standing at that time] that part of the atmosphere between 65 and 80 km and 280- 320 km height, will be disrupted by mechanical forces caused by the pressure wave following the explosion. At the same time, large quantities of ionizing radiation will be released, further ionizing the gaseous components of the atmosphere at this height. This ionization effect is strengthened by the radiation from the fission products... The lower Van Allen Belt, consisting of charged particles that move along the geomagnetic field lines... will similarly be disrupted. As a result of the explosion, this field will be locally destroyed, while countless new electrons will be introduced into the lower belt" (K.H.A. 11 May 1962). "On 19 July... NASA announced that as a consequence of the high altitude nuclear test of July 9, a new radiation belt had been formed, stretching from a height of about 400 km to 1600 km; it can be seen as a temporary extension of the lower Van Allen Belt" (K.H.A. 5 August 1962).
As explained in the Encyclopedia Britannica: "... Starfish made a much wider belt [than Project Argus] that extends from low altitude out past L=3 [i.e. three earth radiuses or about 13,000 km above the surface of the earth]." Later in 1962, the USSR undertook similar planetary experiments, creating three new radiation belts between 7,000 and 13,000 km above the earth. According to the Encyclopedia, the electron fluxes in the lower Van Allen Belt have changed markedly since the 1962 high- altitude nuclear explosions by the US and USSR, never returning to their former state. According to American scientists, it could take many hundreds of years for the Van Allen Belts to destabilize at their normal levels. (Research done by: Nigel Harle, Borderland Archives, Cortenbachstraat 32, 6136 CH Sittard, Netherlands.)