is an atomic detonation effect.
It is the name given to the fluorescence
that can be seen surrounding an atomic device
at the very opening picosecond
s of its detonation
. The Teller light is caused by the core reaching critical mass
, at which point a flood of prompt gamma radiation
escapes it and causes the surrounding air molecules to fluoresce. This light will appear before the actual weapon disintegrates. At later stages of the detonation, fluorescence occurs due to the interaction between fast neutrons
and the air; this is also referred to as Teller light.
The name is from Edward Teller, a Hungarian physicist known as the 'father of the hydrogen bomb.' Multistage fusion weapons are known (in the U.S.) as Teller-Ulam designs after Teller and his Polish colleague Stanislaw Ulam, a mathematician.
Note that the Teller light is initially caused by a fission core going critical - not by a fusion reaction, despite Teller's association with the latter. Fusion weapons contain fission triggers (referred to as the primary) and hence will emit Teller light when detonated, however.