Twitter Q&A

Dr Arthur Turrell and Dr Brian Appelbe hosted a Twitter Q&A on 23 June 2014 where they talked about recreating the heart of the sun.

Read the storify of the Twitter chat.

Find out more about other exhibits hosting Q&As.

Hands-on at this exhibit

  • Align a laser beam so that it pops a balloon
  • See what the Sun is made out of - plasma
  • Look into a microscope to see tiny targets designed to become as hot as the centre of the Sun


Further reading

Hoarty, D. et al. 2013 Observation of the effect of ionization-potential depression in hot dense plasma. Physical Review Letters 110, 265003

Kodama, R. et al. 2001 Fast heating of ultrahigh-density plasma as a step towards laser fusion ignition. Nature 412, 798-802

Rose, S. 2004 Set the controls for the heart of the Sun. Contemporary Physics 45, 109-121

Using one of the world’s newest and most powerful lasers, Orion, researchers are close to being able to recreate the conditions inside the core of the Sun. A combination of laser pulses, lasting for just a fraction of a second, is fired at an area 10,000 times smaller than a pin-head, producing temperatures of millions of degrees at more than ten times the density of water. These conditions are getting closer to the conditions in the centre of the Sun, and many other stars in the Universe. The experiments will help us understand how energy is transported around the Sun.

One of the world’s most powerful lasers, Orion, is helping to recreate conditions inside the core of the Sun by firing a combination of laser pulses at an area 10,000 times smaller than a pin-head. Discover how energy is transported around the Sun and how we can create star power on Earth.

Energy from the nuclear fusion reactions which power stars is turned into electromagnetic radiation (a form of light) in the heart of the Sun. There is no way to directly see this light, and previously we could only indirectly work out how it moves through the Sun, deep under the surface. By recreating the conditions inside the Sun in a laboratory, we can directly find out how the radiation carries the energy to the surface.

This isn’t the only stellar application of big lasers; the US National Ignition Facility is using lasers to go a step further and recreate the way that stars make energy through fusion reactions. Fusion promises to be an abundant, clean, and green source of energy. The goal is to produce more energy than the lasers use. It’s a huge challenge, but recent promising results from this experiment mean that there is hope that star power on Earth will become a reality.

Lead image: An image of the Sun and its corona.