Making Stars With Lasers Looks Like Tron Made Real

By Attila Nagy on at

Not how to destroy an entire planet, but how humans are able to create a star—with the help of a laser tuned to 589.2 nanometres wavelength.

The fantastic superstructure you are staring at is the Unit Telescope of the Very Large Telescope in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. It is shooting its laser in the night sky to energize a layer of sodium atoms which are naturally present in the mesosphere at an altitude of around 90 kilometres, thus creating a tiny artificial star. This star helps to correct the atmospheric turbulence and enables astronomers to get clearer images by the VLT, which are almost as good as made from space. [G. Brammer/ESO]