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Laser versus lightning

This spectacular image of Mother Nature and manmade technology facing off in the night sky was captured by Martin Kornmesser of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) during testing of their laser guide star, a very cool-sounding piece of kit that uses a powerful beam to create an artificial star 90 kilometers (just under 56 miles) up in the Earth's atmosphere. The ESO explains:

Measurements of this artificial star can be used to correct for the blurring effect of the atmosphere in astronomical observations — a technique known as adaptive optics.

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!

It may look like the stuff of science fiction fantasy, but the ESO stressed that the timing of the lightning strike was purely coincidental. Read more on their website.