Researchers teleport an object from Earth to space for the first time

It may have only been a single photon, but it represents a huge milestone for researchers. For the first time ever, scientists have successfully teleported an object (the photon) from Earth to space, something facilitated by a sort of quantum network. This was made possible in part by the Micius satellite, which was launched into orbit from the Gobi Desert last year.

This experiment involved teleporting a photon approximately 500 kilometers from Earth to the orbiting satellite Micius, something that itself is described as a very sensitive photon receiver. The receiver is able to determine the quantum states of individual photons when they're fired from Earth, enabling scientists to test a variety of complex physics experiments involving things like teleportation and quantum entanglement.

Teleportation itself is dependent on entanglement — that is, when a pair of quantum objects take form at the same point and the time, thusly having the same existence. Very large distances can separate this existence, and changes made to one will be reflected in the other despite the expanse between them. This is known due to the frequency with which quantum teleportation has been performed on Earth.

Entanglement, though, can be lost, making these long distances particularly tricky and difficult to pull off; past teleportations of photons on Earth have been capped around the 100 kilometers mark. This time around, though, researchers formed entangled pairs of photons on Earth, then beamed one of each pair to the satellite. By measuring the two — the one in space and the one on Earth — they were able to determine when two separated photons were in a state of entanglement.

Overall, this team had 911 positive cases observed from more than 32 days of photon beaming — millions of photons were sent during the course of the experiment. Not only is this the longest distance over which researchers have observed quantum entanglement, it is also the first time the teleportation has taken place from ground to space.

SOURCE: MIT Technology Review