The target is mounted in the cryogenic target positioning device. The two copper-colored arms form a shroud around the cold target to protect it until they open five seconds before a shot. (NIF)

The National Ignition Facility (NIF) of Livermore, CA is home to the world's largest and highest-energy laser. On September 29th, the NIF completed its first integrated ignition experiment, where it focused its 192 lasers on a BB-sized capsule containing hydrogen fuel - firing it with 1 megajoule of laser energy.

The experiment was the latest in a series of tests leading to a hoped-for ignition, where the nuclei of the atoms of the fuel inside the target capsule are made to fuse together releasing tremendous energy - potentially more energy than was put in to start the initial reaction, becoming a valuable power source. With the completion of this test, NIF is beginning its next phase of the campaign to culminate in fusion ignition tests. One goal of the NIF  is to help create a path to a safe, virtually unlimited, carbon-free energy future.

View a slideshow of high-quality photographs of the NIF testing at The Big Picture .