this series of graphs show the changing density of a cloud of atoms as it is cooled down to lower temperatures (left to right) approaching the absolute zero. The emergence of a sharp peak in the subsequent graphs confirms the formation of a Bose-Einstein condensate — a fifth state of matter — occur here at a temperature of 130 nanoKelvin, or less than 1 Degrees above the absolute zero. (Absolute zero, or zero Kelvin, is equal to minus 459 degrees Fahrenheit or minus 273 Celsius).Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Just a few months after the launch of the Cold Atom Lab, designed to create the coldest spot in the known universe, 10 billion times colder than the depths of space, NASA has achieved his goal.
An agency of the government created atoms known as Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs) for the first time in a job to focus on their unusual quantum behavior. A team of astronauts in the International Space Station (ISS) was able to bring the Cold Atom Lab (CAL), which was loaded with lasers and a vacuum chamber, in order to understand how BECs interact with the gravity.
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“Having a BEC experiment on the space station is a dream come true,” says Robert Thompson, CAL project scientist and a physicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California in a statement, the announcement of the milestone.
Thompson continued: “It is a long, difficult road to get here, but totally worth the struggle, because there is so much that we can do with this facility.”
The scientists produced the BECs with temperatures as “as low as 100 nanoKelvin, or a ten-millionth of a Kelvin above absolute zero,” NASA added in the statement. Zero Kelvin, also known as absolute zero, is the equivalent of minus 459 degrees Fahrenheit. The average temperature of space is about 3 Kelvin or minus 454 degrees Fahrenheit.
Although BECs were first created in a laboratory in 1995, they were actually first predicted by physicists Take Nath Bose and Albert Einstein 71 years prior. In 2001, Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman and Wolfgang Ketterle received the Nobel prize in Physics for the first time, to create and to characterize the BECs in a lab.
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The research is carried out in the ISS might be able to help with applications on Earth and in space, including things such as improved sensors, quantum computers and atomic clocks used to navigate in the far reaches of space, according to the Daily Mail.
BECs can be described as a fifth state of matter, apart from gases, liquids, solids and plasma. They are observed only through microscopic quantum phenomena, but as soon as this happens, the wavefunction of failure than is obvious.
By the introduction of the BECs in the previously mentioned temperatures, scientists hope that they can get an idea of how the four fundamental forces (Gravity, Weak nuclear force, the Electromagnetic Force and the Strong nuclear force) are all working together.
So far, quantum mechanics is able to identify how three of them work together, but the general theory of relativity explains how things work on a large scale, but the interaction of the force of gravity is the weakest of the four, but also easy to understand, it is not a part of that.
CAL was launched in May, Fox News reported earlier, designed and built in collaboration with NASA JPL. The development of CAL started in 2012 and is set to operate until 2020.
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“CAL is a very complicated instrument,” said Robert Shotwell, chief engineer of JPL’s astronomy and physics directorate. “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 operated remotely from the Earth.”
Shotwell added: “It was a struggle and requires a considerable effort to overcome all the obstacles necessary for the production of the advanced facility that is working on the space station today.”
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