If you thought lasers were powerful now, just wait a couple of years. A group of researchers have said that new laser technology coming down the pipeline over the next few years will able to reproduce a gamma-ray burst — an explosion in space that emits more energy within a few minutes than the sun in its lifetime — here on Earth. One of the scientists who contributed to a study on this possibility says the goal is to learn exactly what happens within “some of the most energetic events in the universe.”
A gamma-ray burst lasting only 10 seconds is said to emit more energy than the sun would over 10 billion years. That said, it’s foolish to think that that kind of energy could be generated within a lab, but scientists believe they can study the physics of a burst if the right conditions are created.
The exact cause of a gamma-ray burst is still unknown, but it’s theorized that they are created by events like merging black holes, supernovas, or colliding neutron stars. They are also said to be produced through a non-thermal process, meaning there is no heat involved, like in normal explosions.
The researchers say that next-generation laser facilities being completed in the near future will need to be able to create shockwaves through colliding dense jets of particles. It is believed that these shockwaves are what give birth to energetic gamma-rays. The real answer lies somewhere in finding out how particle jets “convert their energy into high-energy non-thermal radiation.”