NASA is about to produce the coldest temperature in the universe by using some lasers and a tiny lab the size of a box. Called the Cold Atom Laboratory, the box in question will reach the International Space Station where it will produce a spot with a temperature 10 billion times lower than the one of the space vacuum.
The box-sized lab should achieve the coldest temperature ever recorded in the universe
Temperatures affect the properties of atoms, so studying them when they are hot or cold will return interesting observations. However, nobody has actually managed to look at the state of extremely cold atoms and see what quantum properties they exhibit. For this, NASA scientists decided to create the Cold Atom Laboratory.
The purpose of this box-sized lab is to achieve the coldest temperature in the universe. It will take a bundle of atoms, slow them down, and then bring them to the lowest temperature ever achieved in the universe. This is only a bit higher than absolute zero, but it’s known as zero Kelvin. In other words, it translates as -459.67 degrees Fahrenheit.
Atoms exhibit interesting quantum properties when they reach such low temperatures
Therefore, this is not precisely the coldest temperature in the universe, but it’s coldest than anything in the outer space. The absolute low is absolute zero, but this is basically impossible to achieve or to measure. At that temperature, atoms stop moving, so no observations are possible.
However, the Cold Atom Laboratory brings the atoms as close as possible to this coldest temperature. At that state, atoms get incredibly slow, and researchers are interested in the quantum phenomena they exhibit at this point.
It was absolutely necessary that the experiment should happen in space. Such slow atoms are technically possible to create on Earth. However, there’s one factor that intervenes, namely gravity. This makes them impossible to observe for more than a second, but the microgravity on the ISS will keep these atoms visible for up to 10 seconds.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons