NASA: Generating Sparks


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This image from testing of ChemCam shows a ball of luminous plasma erupting from the surface of an iron pyrite crystal in the sample chamber approximately 10 feet from the instrument. The laser beam itself is invisible. The ChemCam instrument, built for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, uses a pulsed laser beam to vaporize a pinhead-size target, producing a flash of light from the ionized material -- plasma -- that can be analyzed to identify chemical elements in the target. ChemCam was designed and built by a U.S.-French team led by Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, N. M.; NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.; the Centre National d'Études Spatiales (the French government space agency); and the Centre d'Étude Spatiale des Rayonnements at the Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées, Toulouse, France. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL (More at NASA Picture Of The Day)