NASA launched a rocket that contains the materials to create the Cold Atom Laboratory on the International Space Station (ISS). The purpose of the experiment is to observe atoms by chilling them to temperatures just a bit above absolute zero.

Absolute zero is colder than the vacuum of space.

Colder Than The Vacuum Of Space

NASA will be freezing atoms with lasers to about less than one-billionth of a degree above absolute zero on the ISS. It sent the Cold Atom Laboratory which is an instrument the size of a beer cooler to slow down atoms just enough to appear almost motionless. Once the atoms are slowed down, magnets are used to trap the atoms. This lets scientists observe how they move and how the atoms interact.

This experiment is being carried out on the ISS because gravity affects the atoms. When the experiment was done on Earth, scientists could only observe the slow-moving atoms for a second at a time. In the microgravity environment of the ISS, researchers are able to view the atoms for much longer.

Temperatures in space reach around -455° F (-270.55° C). Inside the Cold Atom Laboratory scientists are able to reach temperatures of just a little bit above absolute zero. Absolute zero is -459.67° F (-273.15° C). Scientists are hoping that this research could lead to improved technologies such as sensors, quantum computers, and atomic clocks used in spacecraft navigation.

As the atoms are all lowered to cold enough temperatures, they begin to occupy the same quantum state, all the atoms have the same energy levels. At the low temperatures, the atoms come together and begin to move in synch.

Researchers are hoping to create Bose-Einstein condensates on board of the ISS.

Bose-Einstein Condensate

A Bose-Einstein condensate in one of the five state of matter which wasn't discovered until the 1990s. It consists of a group of atoms that are almost cooled to absolute zero. It is what scientists are hoping to achieve with the Cold Atom Laboratory on the International Space Station. When all of the atoms are cooled to this state, they begin to act as a single atom.

To create A Bose-Einstein condensate, scientists start with a cloud of diffuse gas. Atoms in this gas are then cooled with lasers, which take the energy away from the atoms. The atoms are then cooled further until they begin to fall into the same quantum state.

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