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NASA Creates Coldest Spot Ever With Cold Atom Lab in Space

NASA Creates Coldest Spot Ever With Cold Atom Lab in Space
This graph shows the changing density of a cloud of atoms as it is cooled to lower and lower temperatures (going from left to right) approaching absolute zero. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

By    |   Wednesday, 08 August 2018 06:47 PM

NASA has created the coldest spot ever in the known universe as the result of sending its Cold Atom Lab into space.

The spot NASA created was an estimated 10 billion times colder than the depths of space, and it was done to prove a 71-year-old theory of Albert Einstein regarding how atoms behave at low temperatures, NASA said in a news release.

The feat of hyper-freezing was accomplished by a team of astronauts aboard the International Space Station using a box, about the size of a small refrigerator, containing lasers and a vacuum chamber.

They created ultra-cold atoms called Bose-Einstein condensates, or BECs, for the first time in orbit to study their unusual behavior.

"In a BEC, atoms act more like waves than particles. The wave nature of atoms is typically only observable at microscopic scales, but BECs make this phenomenon macroscopic, and thus much easier to study," the laboratory's statement explained. "The ultra-cold atoms all assume their lowest energy state, and take on the same wave identity, becoming indistinguishable from one another. Together, the atom clouds are like a single 'super atom,' instead of individual atoms."

Einstein and Satyendra Nath Bose first theorized of BECs in 1924, and they were first produced in labs on Earth in 1995. But scientists can conduct experiments in space, free of the effects of gravity, that can’t be conducted on Earth.

"There is a globe-spanning team of scientists ready and excited to use this facility," Kamal Oudrhiri, mission manager for the lab, said in the statement. "The diverse range of experiments they plan to perform means there are many techniques for manipulating and cooling the atoms that we need to adapt for microgravity, before we turn the instrument over to the principal investigators to begin science operations."

The statement, issued Wednesday, indicated a three-year program will begin in September.

But it isn’t just an exercise in pure science, it may have practical uses as well in the form of improved sensors, quantum computers, and atomic clocks for improved navigation in space, the Daily Mail noted.

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NASA has created the coldest spot ever in the known universe as the result of sending its Cold Atom Lab into space.
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Wednesday, 08 August 2018 06:47 PM
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