Ultra-cold gas bubbles on the space station could reveal strange new quantum physics

Artist’s impression of the gas bubbles blown in NASA’s Cold Atom Lab aboard the International Space Station. (Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech)

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While it might be a comfortable 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius) inside the International Space Station (ISS), there’s a small chamber aboard where things get much, much colder, colder than space itself.

In NASA’s Cold Atom Lab aboard the ISS, scientists successfully blew small spherical gas bubbles cooled to only one millionth of a degree above absolute zero, the lowest theoretically possible temperature. (They are a few degrees colder than space!) The test was designed to study how ultracold gas behaves in microgravity and the results can lead to experiments with Bose-Einstein condensates (BEC), the fifth state of matter.

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