The Sciences

Oh great. Now we have lightning equipped with lasers.

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitSep 6, 2011 10:20 AM


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Oh, when will scientists learn? First it was laser pointers, then sharks with lasers. Now? Lightning storms with lasers.

[Click to enteslanate.] What could possibly go wrong? Dun dun DUNNNNNNNN. OK, fine. In reality, this picture actually shows a storm approaching an observatory testing out a new type of laser guide star system; lasers can be used as a way of increasing the resolution of telescopes. The storm was still a ways off, but from the photographer's view the laser was superposed over it, and happened to catch a pretty dramatic lightning bolt in the picture. I was interested to read that the laser had a power of about 20 Watts. A decent green laser pointer has a power of roughly 1/5^th of a Watt, so this one is 100 times as powerful. I've used a 1 Watt hand-held laser before, and it literally scared me; it was so bright it felt like a weapon. The laser seen above is a lot brighter yet, and they need to have spotters when they're used to make sure no airplanes are nearby. The beam might (under extraordinary circumstances) damage the plane, and would surely blind the pilot; not a happy circumstance. Of course, lightning is even more powerful. After this picture gets around, I expect SyFy will air "Megalaser versus Superlightning". Which I would totally watch. Image credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

Related posts: - NASA shoots the Moon - Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation - Beam me up - Very large telescope, very stunning time lapse

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