World
HAMBURG – A series of laser beams crisscrossed the skies over Hamburg to mark the launch of the world’s biggest x-ray laser, co-financed by Russia. The device is able to photograph objects at an atomic level and is set to “transcend” current scientific boundaries.

Since Monday night, 10 green laser beams have lit up the sky from Hamburg to the nearby town of Schenefeld, while the words “Welcome European XFEL” projected onto a warehouse next to Hamburg’s new concert hall, the Elbphilharmonie.

The elaborate light display, which could be seen from 24 kilometers away, marked the underground path of the world’s biggest X-ray laser, the European XFEL, which became operational on Friday.

“With 27,000 X-ray laser flashes per second and a luminance a billion times higher than that of the best conventional X-ray sources, XFEL will open up entirely new research opportunities and help transcend the current boundaries of scientific research,” the XFEL team said in a press release.

“It will enable international scientists to decipher the molecular composition of viruses and cells, take three-dimensional images of the nanoworld, film chemical reactions and study processes occurring deep inside planets. XFEL will help develop e.g. new medication and new materials.”

A project between 11 European countries, developing the XFEL facility has cost €1.22 billion (US$1.45 billion), the bulk of which (58 percent) was funded by Germany, followed by Russia (27 percent). Present at the launch were German Research Minister Johanna Wanka, Olaf Scholz, the Mayor of Hamburg, Russian presidential aide Andrey Fursenko, and French Research Minister Frederique Vidal.