The Z Machine is the largest x-ray generator in the world. At twenty feet in depth and over 100 feet in diameter, the circular apparatus is capable of generating some of the most phenomenally powerful electrical currents known to man — for a few nanoseconds at a time.

While it was originally designed to test materials under extreme temperatures and pressures, astronomer Don Winget has been using the Z Machine for the last few years to create white dwarfs — what Carl Sagan referred to as "chunks of star stuff" — right here on Earth, in the middle of the New Mexico desert. It's tremendously beautiful stuff, and even inspired fine arts student Leah Flippen to produce a painting based on the science done at the generator.

In this arresting short video, Winget and Flippen talk about the Z Machine's experiments, tell the story of how a photograph of the Z Machine in Winget's Astronomy 301 course inspired Flippen to produce a painting of the same name. It's a quick and stirring reminder of the interplay at work between art and science, and definitely worth setting aside a few minutes of your day to watch.

[UT Austin via It's Okay to be Smart]