August 2012 — Laser meets lightning
The sky above the Allgäu Public Observatory in southwestern Bavaria lit up by two very different phenomena: one is an example of advanced technology, and the other of nature's dramatic power.
As ESO tested the new Wendelstein laser guide star unit by shooting a powerful laser beam into the atmosphere, one of the region’s intense summer thunderstorms was approaching. With purely coincidental timing this photograph was snapped just as lightning flashed, resulting in a breathtaking image that looks like a scene from a science fiction movie. The laser in this photograph is a powerful one, with a 20-watt beam, but the power in a bolt of lightning peaks at a trillion (one million million) watts, albeit for just a fraction of a second!