Space

Scientists at NASA will harness the power of lasers to create coolest spot in the universe, Here’s how

Image Credit: NASA. Artist’s concept of an atom chip for use by NASA’s Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) aboard the International Space Station. CAL will use lasers to cool atoms to ultracold temperatures.

For accomplishing the mission of decoding the anonymity of dark matter and gravity, NASA is gearing up to send an ice chest-sized box to the International Space Station (ISS), where, by freezing the gas atoms, it will create the coldest spot in the universe – an advance that may pave new paths towards the exploration of gravity and dark matter.

Forces like dark matter and gravity are present everywhere in the universe. But despite their omnipresence nature, the concept, nature, origin, and intensity of both forces are still weakly understood by scientists. Now in order to get new and clearer insights into the mysterious forces, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in taking a significant step forward, under which it will create world’s coolest place.  And this coolest place will help the scientists to make out many secrets about dark matter and gravity.

For this mission, NASA has developed a suite of instruments, called ‘Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL).’ It is an ice-crust sized box – a facility that will allow scientists to swot up of ultra-cold quantum gases in the microgravity atmosphere of the International Space Station (ISS). It is developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the US. According to NASA, the ice-crust laboratory will take off to the International Space Station (ISS) to space on 1st August 2017, on board the cargo resupply mission of SpaceX, called – CRS-12.

“Studying these hyper-cold atoms could reshape our understanding of matter and the fundamental nature of gravity,” said CAL Project Scientist Robert Thompson of JPL. “The experiments we’ll do with the Cold Atom Lab will give us insight into gravity and dark energy — some of the most pervasive forces in the universe.”

Once dispatched at ISS, scientists will use the laboratory for coagulating the gas atoms, presented inside the cold chamber. The instruments of CAL are designed for chilling the gas atoms by taking it to a billionth of a degree over the state of absolute zero degree, which is over 100 million times freeze than the depths of space. When the instruments of CAL succeeds in freezing the gas ions to excessive temperatures, the atoms will be capable of forming Bose-Einstein condensate – a distinct state of matter where the attenuate gas of bosons refrigerated to temperatures extremely close to absolute zero degrees.

Image Credits: Wiki Commons. Velocity-distribution data (3 views) for a gas of rubidium atoms, confirming the discovery of a new phase of matter, the Bose–Einstein condensate. Left: just before the appearance of a Bose–Einstein condensate. Center: just after the appearance of the condensate. Right: after further evaporation, leaving a sample of nearly pure condensate

In this state of matter, the recognisable rules of physics will move away, and quantum physics will be switched on. On Earth, while, the tug of gravity forces the gas atoms to continually make progress towards the ground, making them noticeable only for some fractions of a second. However, by freezing them and applying Bose-Einstein condensate state of matter on the International Space Station, scientists will modify the observational quality of the atoms and will make the ultra-cold atoms to clutch their beckon-like shapes for a longer time.

As estimated by Robert Thompson, a Project Scientist of Cold Atom Laboratory at NASA’s JPL, Cold Atom Laboratory will endorse Bose-Einstein condensates to be perceptible for 5 to 10 seconds; means a long opening for scientists to study it. This will allow scientists to examine the atoms more thoroughly and to understand physics at its most elementary stage.

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