Rapatronic shutter; snap a pic of an atomic bomb

We never really thought about it before, but this post about Rapatronic Shutters answers the question of how to photograph an atomic bomb detonation. The post includes an MIT video where [Charles Wyckoff] explains how he and [Harold Edgerton] developed the Rapatronic Camera. It is designed to snap a photograph based on zero time, marked by the X-ray transmission emanating from the bomb before it actually explodes. This pulse is picked up by a light sensor on a delay circuit, allowing for very precise exposure timing. Many of these cameras were used at the same time, all with slightly different delays so that the images could be viewed in order to show what happens during each stage of detonation.

[Thanks Petrus]

15 thoughts on “Rapatronic shutter; snap a pic of an atomic bomb

  1. I love the optics progression =) Cameras do amazing things, first out-worldly in the hubble and spitzer and such, and now its time we focus our attention inward. The more we can learn, the better. Cool concept, and if we ever have an a-bomb hit our face we can watch it in slow mo !

  2. I’ve long been interested in these cameras. I’ve recently been contemplating creating my own version of one of these cameras by hacking a lens from a pair of active shutter 3d glasses but the ~$100 price range is a bit of a discouragement. : /

  3. Harold Edgerton is (was)an interesting guy. he was one of the founders of EG&G Labs. During WWII he flew in recon planes over battle fields at night, using the ‘flashes’ from bomb explosions to expose his camera film. Photographed all but 4 above ground nuclear tests and worked with Jacques Cousteau.

    HAD is having a good day with me so far. you did a zipit entry and a Harold Edgerton entry. Now if you’ll do an entry about Feynman, Helmholtz, using the triple-point of water as a pressure standard, and finally using saturated salts to calibrate a humidity sensor, you’ll have covered all my bases.

  4. “Many of these cameras were used at the same time, all with slightly different delays so that the images could be viewed in order to show what happens during each stage of detonation”

    The matrix – owned

  5. @Andy7
    no one said it did XD
    could be an early digital or it could have used a series of mirrors to project the image downwards in to a minibunker

    who knows XD

  6. Very impressive shot. Surprising that you don’t see it mixed in with all of the usual test photos, I’ve never seen it and it’s really unusual.
    From a link another commenter posted: “The glowing surface of the fireball is due to shock compression heating of the air.” this was near a similarly unusual photo. Kinda crazy when you think about what that means.

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