NASA has cooled a cloud of rubidium atoms to ten-millionth of a degree above absolute zero, the produce of the fifth, the exotic state of matter in space. The experiment also now holds the record for the coldest object that we know of in the area, although it is still not the coldest thing mankind has ever created. (That record still belongs to a laboratory at MIT.)
The Cold Atom Lab (CAL) is a compact quantum physics machine, a device built to operate in the framework of the International Space Station (ISS) was launched into space in May. Now, according to a statement from NASA, the device has its first Bose-Einstein condensate, the strange structures of atoms that scientists use to see quantum effects of play on a large scale.
“Most of the BEC experiments involve enough material to fill a room and require a continuous monitoring by the scientists, while CAL is about the size of a small refrigerator, and can be remotely operated from Earth,” Robert Shotwell, who leads the experiment of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in the statement.
Despite the fact that the level of difficulty of the NASA said the project was worth the effort. A Bose-Einstein condensate on Earth is a fascinating object; at super-low temperatures, atoms’ boundaries in each other, and usually invisible to the quantum effects play in the ways in which scientists can directly observe. But cool clouds of atoms to ultra-low temperatures requires suspension of them with the help of magnets or lasers. And as soon as these magnets or lasers are disabled for the observations, the vapour condenses to fall to the ground of the experiment and removed.
In the microgravity of the ISS, but it works a little differently. The CAL may be a Bose-Einstein condensate, sets you free, then you will have a considerably longer time to observe it before it drifts off, NASA wrote — for as long as 5 or 10 seconds. And that advantage, as Live Science reported earlier, should eventually allow NASA to make it condenses a lot colder than on Earth. If the condensate expand beyond their container, they cool further. And the longer they are cooled, the colder it is.
Originally published on Live Science.