Just as there is an accepted history of nuclear weapons testing, there is an undercurrent running through history books that tell tale of mysterious explosions that seem to occur on their own without human intervention. Some suggest these could be the result of asteroids and other natural events while others say the facts just don’t add up. One of these compelling mysteries is the Vela incident.
In September of 1979 the DSP Vela Hotel satellite system recorded a sudden double flash of light very similar to a nuclear test. The global climate and concerns over the possession of nuclear weapons sparked an investigation, and soon a number of suspects came to light. Investigations, including 25 sorties by aircraft over the Indian Ocean, turned up no sign of nuclear radiation. Other possibilities were considered, but one chilling fear came to grip some in the intelligence community – that of a nuclear explosion that did not leave behind fallout. These concerns came alongside others that perhaps the Vela satellite itself was defective, turning up false visual positives on the ocean. Even the most popular theory, that of a nuclear test carried out by Israel in conjunction with the government of South Africa doesn’t explain the lack of radiation afterward.
And there are other incidents that seem to defy explanation. In 1908 the air burst of an object over Tunguska flattened trees for miles, snapping them like matchsticks in a single flash of light seen by no one, but chronicled in the charred remains of tree bark. In January of 1993 a mysterious explosion near Lugo, Italy caused a tremendous fireball in the vicinity expected to be half as powerful as the bomb “Little Boy” that was dropped on Hiroshima.
The culprits in both the Tunguska and Lugo incidents are thought to be bolide meteors, but there is no shortage of alternative theories in both cases. And one of the problems of the Bolide theory is the lack of any evidence left behind by many of the objects in question. They are simply phantom explosions. Yet another, creating a blast of over 100 kilotons over the Caruca River area of Brazil is thought to have possibly been created by more than three meteors all striking the same place at the same time. More liberal estimates suggest the explosion in 1930 could have been more on the scale of a full megaton (equivalent to 4.184 petajoules – over fifty times the energy of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.)
And while the problem of missing radiation has been recorded in many of these suspected nuclear tests, still other cases arise where radiation appears where it shouldn’t even in the first place. Shortly after nine skiers were discovered dead in Dyatlov Pass, authorities examined their bodies and found them to be radioactive. There was no explanation in this case, either, though skiers from another group 50 kilometers south of the hikers reported seeing what they described as lights in the sky. Of course this account was dismissed by authorities at the time with a single explanation: a meteor.