The most powerful nuclear bomb in history was dropped by the Soviet Union above a remote island in October of 1961 that was felt hundreds of miles away. The bomb, which was called RDS-220 or “Tsar Bomba”, was detonated about 2.5 miles above the Novaya Zemlya islands, north of the Arctic Circle.
An aerial bomber brought the 27-ton, 26-foot-long weapon over the islands before dropping it by a parachute. When the bomb detonated, the explosion was so strong that it caused the plane to drop 3,000 feet before the pilot could steady it.
Even though it was detonated a couple of miles above the ground, the island was still left flat and bare. The flash from the bomb was seen for over 600 miles and its massive heat was felt up to 160 miles away, capable of causing third degree burns as far as 62 miles from the detonation site.
Even the huge mushroom cloud stretched so high up that it almost reached the edge of space (it reached an altitude of 210,000 feet). Incredibly, nobody died from the detonation.
In July of 1961, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev ordered the construction of the bomb. He had initially ordered a 100-megaton nuclear weapon, but the engineers gave him a 50-megaton weapon instead. To put this into better perspective, the “Tsar Bomba” was thousands of times more powerful than the nukes that were detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. Another jaw-dropping comparison was that the United States’ extremely powerful nuclear weapon that was tested in 1954 called “Castle Bravo” was 15 megatons.
No bomb even close to being as powerful as “Tsar Bomba” has ever been tested again. Although, a lot of that probably has to do with the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty that the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and United States all signed in August of 1963. According to the treaty, nuclear weapons were not allowed to be tested in outer space, in the atmosphere, or underwater.
There have, however, been several atomic tests that have occurred underground with one example being North Korea who conducted such a powerful test in 2018 that a mountain near the testing site (Mount Mantap) actually moved and compressed after the explosion.
Now, getting back to the Soviet Union’s “Tsar Bomba”, Russia’s state atomic agency called Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation declassified a 40-minute video of the bomb – from the manufacturing process, to being dropped via a parachute and the gigantic mushroom cloud. The video can be seen here on YouTube with the countdown to the bomb being detonated starting at around the 22:20 mark.