ISS to become the coldest place in space

The International Space Station will become the coldest spot in space as NASA's Cold Atom Laboratory starts producing super-cold atoms.
By Karen Saltos | Jul 31, 2018
The International Space Station will become the coldest spot in space as NASA's Cold Atom Laboratory starts producing super-cold atoms. Scientists can cool these atoms, Bose-Einstein condensates, to 10 millionth of one Kelvin above absolute zero.

When they cool an object very close to absolute zero, it is the lowest temperature that is theoretically possible. This temperature is a measurement of the movement of molecules in a substance.

If molecules move extremely slowly then the substance is solid. If they move faster, it is a liquid. A little faster than that and it is gas. Even faster movement than any of those, the electrons start to strip away and it is plasma.

If these molecules stop completely, then they have reached absolute zero. However, no matter how much energy they suck out of a molecule, it still moves slightly.

It is the realm of quantum mechanics where the normal laws of physics begin to break down. It is also why super cooled helium remains a liquid under normal pressures when reduced to near absolute zero.

The new Cold Atom Lab has an advantage because it is in the microgravity environment of the ISS. The CAL has already cooled atoms of rubidium down to 100 non- Kelvin above absolute zero.

When CAL is fully functional, it will be the coldest spot in the Universe. Scientists will be able to observe BECs for up to 10 seconds and repeat experiments up to six hours a day.

 

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