What did Vela see?

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On September 22, 1979 an aging satellite named Vela 6911 detected two very distinct flashes in the vicinity of the Indian or South Atlantic oceans that supposedly could be only one thing: a nuclear detonation. The Carter administration held an emergency meeting, other satellites were enlisted to see if they saw the detonation, which they did not, and utter pandemonium ensued for a short time as the US government scrambled to see who or what had set off a nuclear weapon that day.

It was a small explosion, estimated at only three kilotons, and while the Soviets, Chinese, French and British are unlikely as the originators, the finger was tentatively pointed at Israel or South Africa for testing a weapon. Problem is, the whole thing made no sense.


The first problem was that no other satellites had detected the detonation, even though at least three were capable of it, if not more. It might have ended there, a very scary and potentially dangerous malfunction caused a false alarm. But it didn’t. Astronomers working at the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico detected an atmospheric shockwave that could have been linked to a nuclear explosion. The US government’s hydrophone network detected a very clear echo of a large explosion. But the one piece of foolproof evidence was never found: radiation. Dozens of flights were conducted to try to detect fallout, and none was ever found, though extremely low levels of a certain radioactive element might have been detected in Australia, some time later.

The blast remains a secret to this day, despite South Africa having given up all nuclear weaponry and testing decades ago. If they did it, they still aren’t saying, even though they have no motivation to keep quiet after all this time. Only if it involved Israel would it be worth keeping secret still.

It couldn’t have been a natural phenomena, meteorites do not make double flashes of light characteristic of a nuclear explosion. But given that all parties that may or may not have been involved state it wasn’t theirs, and the fact that radiation fallout was never confirmed, tends to point to something else.

Exploding UFO’s have been brought up as a cause of anomalous atmospheric detonations for some time. Tunguska, most famously, was suspected by some in the UFO community as just such a thing. While no detonation was seen before the Roswell crash, its easily possible that nothing was around capable of detecting it at the time. Could an alien spacecraft have exploded over the Indian Ocean in 1979?

Its not likely we’ll ever know. The facts surrounding the event to this day do not add up, and any potential players in the nuclear arena remain tight-lipped. Most likely, Israel tested a nuclear weapon, but how it managed to not produce detected fallout is a mystery. Could it have been a UFO? Someone in government knows, but they aren’t going to say. Random detonations that look like nuclear weapons, cause international incidents, and could have been misconstrued by jittery cold war powers are something you tend to keep secret.

The Verdict



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  • alanborky

    Could the flashes’ve been something along the lines of the mysterious electrical atmospheric effects such as sprites which, though reported for decades by various aeroplane pilots, were, at the time, (and right upto only very recently), dismissed out of hand?

  • milton litchard

    Nuclear detonation could also come from a submarine. The relatively low level of the detonation may be indicative of an accident.
    Of course, submarine operations are very, very secret, so who’s to say for sure ?

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  • Hugh Troy

    “It couldn’t have been a natural phenomena, meteorites do not make double flashes of light characteristic of a nuclear explosion. But given that all parties that may or may not have been involved state it wasn’t theirs, and the fact that radiation fallout was never confirmed, tends to point to something else. ”

    This statement is incorrect. Meteoric material can break up in space and the pieces, when entering an atmosphere, can then lead to many flashes or fireballs if the material is large enough. large chunks of matter would make large explosions,e.g. Tunguska. If that matter happened to be of low density, like ice or an agglomeration of small pebblelike rocks, then nothing larger than dust particles would reach the ground/ sea below.
    The lack of radiation would be perfectly in line with meteoric material burning up/ exploding as it struck the atmosphere at high speed. So it could have been a natural phenomena after all.

  • PBO

    Nuclear tit for tat between France and Briton, as what happened in the Antarctic.

  • Agard Oberon

    it could have been a neutron bomb.

  • unreconstructed confederate

    There was a visual sighting of this event reported by an airline pilot and co-pilot on a South Indian Ocean flight. They reported seeing a mushroom cloud. The story that no radiation was detected was probably just that, a story. Israel has never verified that it has nuclear weapons but it does. The United States knows they have them but goes along with the Israeli position. After all, the USA cannot claim that Iran is a dangerous country with weapons of mass destruction when it’s so-called best ally in the Middle East has 200-300 nuclear weapons and is a threat to any country that doesn’t tow the zionist line.

  • Hoytshooter

    While a mushroom cloud is usually taken as a sign of a nuclear explosion it isn’t always true. Hollywood is very good at producing mushroom clouds with gasoline and they can also form naturally under various atmospheric conditions. I remember seeing one over Evansville, Indiana back in the 1950s and I know it was not from a nuclear explosion otherwise I wouldn’t be here today

  • Alienmojo

    Don’t forget… the main reason no radiation was found was because they did not search at the correct altitudes for it and did not fly directly into the area of the explosion. Why, I don’t know. I suspect they didn’t want to prove it. Just deny it.

  • Alienmojo

    Hugh Troy is correct about meteors making a flash.. but not the characteristic Double-flash that a nuke does.