It's easy to see the devastation of war when it happens right in front of our eyes in the form of destroyed cities and charred countryside. But it turns out the effects of our weapons can ripple beyond our planet. World War II shook the Earth so violently that the shockwave into space.
In a paper published in , University of Reading researchers in the United Kingdom looked back at radio evidence from the 1940s to study how bombing raids in Europe might have affected radio transmissions. They found that effects traveled far, far beyond the line 62 miles above the Earth's surface that most experts use to delineate the upper atmosphere from the edge of space.
The Radio Research Centre in Slough monitored the ionosphere during this time, and it detected fluctuations especially in the 62-to-186 mile range above the Earth's surface (or 100 to 300 km). During bombing raids, the concentration of electrons dipped significantly, indicating the bombs weren't just shaking the ground in Europe, but jostling energy bands in space far above as well. This was likely caused by heating of the upper atmosphere by bombings.
Patrick Major of the University of Reading and a co-author on the study said in a press release:
"Aircrew involved in the raids reported having their aircraft damaged by the bomb shockwaves, despite being above the recommended height. Residents under the bombs would routinely recall being thrown through the air by the pressure waves of air mines exploding, and window casements and doors would be blown off their hinges."
The effects were likely caused by pressure wave events, which radiated the effects of the blast for 600 miles or more in all directions. The likeliest culprit were Allied planes carrying 22-ton bombs known as "Grand Slams." The effect is also unlikely to be isolated to just this time period—meaning bombs like , which is about the weight of the Grand Slam, may have shaken space as well.