‘Star Wars’ blaster bolt in real life

IPC PAS
IPC PAS

A team of scientists has given us our first glimpse at what a real life blaster bolt would look like. Unfortunately, it’s nothing like the movies-laser pulses, made of light, move at the speed of light, too fast for the eye to see. Though not as aesthetically pleasing as in the movies, we are that much closer to real life laser “bullets” thanks to scientist of the Laser Centre of the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Faculty of Physics, University of Warsaw.

IPC PAS
IPC PAS

A light pulse fired from a 10 TW laser, dispersing into water vapour. The blue glow is laser light. The source of the other colours is mainly plasma fibre (filament) arising as a result of ionized matter, located in the air in the path of the light pulse. The laser with parametric amplifier NOPCPA was designed and constructed at the Laser Centre of the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Faculty of Physics at the University of Warsaw. (Source: IPC PAS)

A laser pulse only lasts for a dozen or so femtoseconds (millionths of a billionth of a second). So, to capture it on film, a camera operating at a speed of a billion frames per second was needed. Since, no such camera exists researchers at the University of Warsaw’s Laser Centre used an old camera trick in order to test a new compact high-power laser. The laser in this video is actually a composite (or mash up) of many, many laser shots. To capture it, an adapted camera was synchronized with laser generating pulses at a rate of approximately 10 shots per second. It was done in such a way that with every subsequent pulse the camera recorded, an image was minimally delayed from the previous one.

Watch the video below:

The ghostly figure seen is because the video is filmed with a camera synchronized with a laser pulsing about 10 times a second, so each little line moving is made up of many still shots of different pulses at slightly different positions in the room. The figure is revealed when the light bounces onto him (or her) when reflected from nearby sources.