Laser > GRB

Contributed by
Apr 10, 2008
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Wow: New Scientist is reporting that scientists have created a laser that pound for pound is the brightest light source in the Universe.

It's a petawatt laser, which is incredibly powerful (one petawatt is 1000 terawatts; peta is a prefix people will get to know in a year or two once terabyte drives prove too small to store very many illegally downloaded BluRay movies). The light of the laser is sent out in a very brief pulse, which has all that energy packed into it. So it's short-duration, but incredibly bright. It's actually got more intensity (energy per square centimeter) crammed into the pulse than a gamma-ray burst beam, which is insanely powerful.

This sort of thing has lots of uses in astronomy, oddly. It creates so much energy that it can be used to model what happens when a lot of energy slams into matter as it does in a supernova or GRB. It's not well-understood what happens when matter absorbs energy on that scale, so it will be a useful test on theories.

Plus, it's just cool. Chris Knight would be proud.

Tip o' the heavily shielded goggles to BABloggee Dave, Just Dave.