You're looking at the heart of the most powerful X-Ray laser machine ever created by humans, billions of times stronger than anything before it. It's the Linac Coherent Light Source and it has created something that nobody has made before on this planet: the kind of matter that you can only find in the heart of stars and giant planets.
US Department of Energy's scientists at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory fired the LCLS at a small cube of aluminium only one-thousandth of a centimeter on a side. As the X-Ray rapid-fire laser pulses converged on the aluminium, it created a superhot solid plasma burning at two million degrees Celsius.
That's hotter than the temperature of the sun's corona.
It only happened in less than one trillionth of a second and it's still far below the 14 million Kelvin (13.9 million degrees Celsius) at the heart of our home star but, according to lead paper author Sam Vinko, it will help understanding how stars work and, eventually, help us recreate the nuclear fusion process that powers the sun:
"The LCLS X-ray laser is a truly remarkable machine. Making extremely hot, dense matter is important scientifically if we are ultimately to understand the conditions that exist inside stars and at the center of giant planets within our own solar system and beyond."
In the image above you can see the Linac Coherent Light Source SXR experimental chamber. In the center there's the container for the aluminium cube that gets converted into the solid plasma. [SLAC]