What happens to atoms when they get frozen and real frigid? Our universe just got more and more mysterious the more we dig deeper. And, now to unravel yet another mystery of the universe, NASA’s Cold Atom Laboratory which has created the coldest place in the universe is finally zooming into space on Sunday to study what happens to atoms when they get frozen and real frigid.
For the last few years, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has been building a chamber to cool a few atoms down to a billionth of a degree above absolute zero. Cooling stuff down at that level is less about air conditioning and more about eliminating as much movement as possible, say NASA scientists.
According to a report in Popular Mechanics:
A high-grade vacuum chamber and a series of powerful lasers used by the Cold Atom Laboratory is not enough. Researchers also need to eliminate gravity. So this Sunday, a rocket traveling to the International Space Station will bring the Cold Atom Laboratory along for the ride. Once there, the laboratory will begin experimenting on Bose-Einstein condensates, exotic forms of matter that appear only at extremely cold temperatures.
Scientists say that these condensates can exist on earth just for up to a second at a time before they collapse, but in space they can exist for 10 seconds or more. This will help scientists study the atoms and see how they work. Learning more about Bose-Einstein condensates can help us understand the weird nature of quantum mechanics, and this experiment is our best chance to do that.