NASA has plans to create the coldest known spot in the universe. Space is already known to be very cold but the space agency wants to go even further in order to do an in-depth study of quantum mechanics. The International Space Station (ISS) has been chosen as the location.
In between galaxies the temperature is measured at around 3 Kelvin, which is close to absolute zero. At these temperatures all movement on a subatomic level is thought to stop. Pretty cold then! Yet NASA’s experiment will cause temperatures within the ISS Cold Atom Lab to drop to as low as 100 pico-Kelvin above absolute zero.
The ISS is the perfect setting for this unusual study due to the fact that there is no gravity. Using magnetic strips, the researchers will expand Bose-Einstein Condensates, which is a type of dilute gas that displays incredible macro-quantum effects at ridiculously low temperatures. It is these effects that scientists are most interested in.
Quantum mechanices is a fascinating subject and hopefully Bose-Einstein Condensates will help scientists better understand it. We will have to wait a while though, as the cold atom lab isn’t due to head off to its new home until 2016.
[Image via Fromquarkstoquasars]