NASA CAL to create temperatures 10 billion times colder than space

NASA wants to make some very cold temperatures and to do this it is sending a laser to the International Space Station (ISS). That laser will be used in an experiment to create a spot 10 billion times colder than the vacuum of space. The apparatus is called the Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) and is about the size of an ice chest. It will be sent to the ISS aboard an Orbital Cygnus rocket.

The purpose of the experiment isn't super cold space beer, rather the Cold Atom Laboratory will help scientists observe the bizarre quantum properties of ultra-cold atoms. To reach the incredibly cold temperatures, a combination of lasers and magnets are used to chill and slow a cloud of atoms to slightly above absolute zero.

Absolute zero is -459.67 degrees Fahrenheit and is impossible to achieve because at that point atoms stop moving. CAL can cool atoms to one-tenth of a billion of a degree above absolute zero. That makes the atoms move extremely slowly and exhibit a microscopic quantum phenomenon.

The incredibly cold cloud of atoms is known as a Bose-Einstein condensate and can be created here on Earth. However, when created on Earth gravity quickly drags the condensate downwards allowing them to be observed for only a fraction of a second. In the microgravity of the ISS, scientists will be able to observe the cloud for up to ten seconds.

Scientists on Earth will operate CAL remotely to conduct experiments. CAL will provide the longest viewing times ever achieved for Bose-Einstein condensates, which are also known as a superfluid. That is a type of fluid with zero viscosity and learning about them has the potential to provide gains in more efficient energy transfer. The spacecraft with CAL aboard is set for launch today.

SOURCE: Science Alert