As scientists can attest, modern technology can achieve even the most impossible goals. Say, for instance, an unbelievably powerful laser that is capable of creating plasma several times hotter than the center of our dear old sun! A recent photo, taken at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, shows the highly-specialized Trident Laser in action. Here, the intensely bright star, in the middle of the picture, is actually the hotter-than-the-sun plasma.
According to the researchers, the experiment commences when invisible infrared light, emanated from the 200-trillion-watt laser, is made to interact with a micrometer-thick foil target, situated at the center of the photo. The ultrashort laser pulse generates a plasma, basically an incredibly hot ionized gas with nearly equal numbers of negatively-charged electrons and positively-charged ions, that lasts merely a trillionth of a second.
During the experiment, some of the foil’s electrons are accelerated to almost the speed of light, while certain ions acquire energy worth over tens of millions of volts. As one can see in the photo, the collision between the highly-energized X-rays and the surrounding particles results in a number of brightly-colored plasmas. The green light, in the background, is produced due to the non-linear process of second harmonic generation (SHG), taking place at the laser-plasma interface.
When the laser pulse strikes the target, pieces of debris fly off, forming narrow orange streaks of light. Of these, some get reflected by the surrounding surfaces, while the rest come together to create twisted braids of captivating colors. The time-integrated shot shows a variety of diagnostic apparatus, that are in turn illuminated by the searing plasmas.