In California, at the ultra-powerful fusion laboratory of the National Ignition Facility, 192 laser beams have fired simultaneously, blasting their target — a circle 2 millimeters in diameter — with 500 trillion watts. That’s 1,000 times more than the entire rest of the United States was using at the time. It is the highest-energy laser shot ever fired in real life, although some fictional lasers have exceeded the record.

The NIF’s ultimate goal is to induce nuclear fusion in a highly compressed pellet of hydrogen, which will be held at the target point of the laser beams. The fusion reaction will generate energy, so we’ll earn back our 500 terawatts with interest.

The Target of the Laser