Here’s a rare video, previously classified but recently released, of the explosion of the “Tsar Bomba“, which the Soviet Union detonated on October 30, 1961. Wikipedia calls it “the most powerful nuclear weapon ever created and tested”, and it “remains the most powerful human-made explosive ever detonated.”
How powerful was this H-bomb? About 50 megatons of TNT; here’s a comparison to other Big Bombs:
The Tsar Bomba was the single most physically powerful device ever deployed on Earth. For comparison, the largest weapon ever produced by the U.S., the now-decommissioned B41, had a predicted maximum yield of 25 megatons of TNT (100 PJ). The largest nuclear device ever tested by the U.S. (Castle Bravo) yielded 15 megatons of TNT (63 PJ) because of an unexpectedly high involvement of lithium-7 in the fusion reaction; the preliminary prediction for the yield was from 4 to 6 megatons of TNT (17 to 25 PJ). The largest weapons deployed by the Soviet Union were also around 25 megatons of TNT (100 PJ) (e.g., the SS-18 Mod. 3 warhead).
The weight and size of the Tsar Bomba limited the range and speed of the specially modified bomber carrying it. Delivery by an intercontinental ballistic missile would have required a much stronger missile (the Proton started its development as that delivery system). It has been estimated that detonating the original 100 Mt design would have released fallout amounting to about 26% of all fallout emitted since the invention of nuclear weapons. It was decided that a full 100 Mt detonation would create a nuclear fallout that was unacceptable in terms of pollution from a single test, as well as a near certainty that the release plane and crew would be destroyed before it could escape the blast radius.
According to the New York Times article about the new footage, the Tsar Bomba was fully 700 times as powerful as the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima!
As you see from the video below, the bomb was slowly parachuted down before it was detonated. The bomb was set off at a height of 4,000 meters over the Novaya Zemlya archipelago above the Arctic Circle.
Here’s the condensed version of the video, about 2.5 minutes long.
Here’s the full version of the Soviet video, 40 minutes long: