If Israel were linked to the covert explosion, the resulting trade sanctions— or the refusal to impose them— would be politically precarious for the President, particularly while campaigning for re-election.
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Moments later an unusual, fast-moving ionospheric disturbance was detected by the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, and at about the same time 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.
When the technicians at the Air Force Technical Applications Center (AFTAC) first received the detection signal, they were not aware of the related observations from SOSUS and Arecibo.
But the Vela report was strong evidence on its own: the signature was too unique to be explained by other phenomena, the flashes were orders of magnitude brighter than any non-nuclear source on earth, and the likelihood of both bhangmeters artificially producing the same specific pattern was vanishingly small.
Though the Vela satellites were bristling with atom-bomb sensing equipment, their most effective apparatus was each unit’s pair of aptly-named .
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.
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Though each satellite’s intended lifespan was only eighteen months, the units continued to detect detonations for years thereafter.