NASA Wants to Study How Atoms Behave When Frozen: Scientists to Create Coldest Site in the Universe

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Mar 15, 2017 06:34 AM EDT

SpaceX CRS-12 is set to deliver the Cold Atom Laboratory to the International Space Station in August 2017. The CAL would create the coldest site in the universe which would allow NASA scientists to study how atoms behave when frozen. (Photo : NASA via Getty Images)

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is set construct a Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) at the International Space Station (ISS) this summer. The CAL would be used to create the coldest site in the universe so that NASA scientists can study how atoms behave when frozen.

The Independent reports that the CAL is in its final stages of assembly at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. To reach the ISS, NASA has booked a flight with the Elon Musk-led SpaceX CRS-12 that would launch a re-supply mission to the ISS this coming August 2017. From the ISS, CAL would create the coldest site in the universe so that the researchers would have the chance to study how atoms behave when frozen.

According to Robert Thompson, a CAL Project Scientist from the JPL, the CAL would allow scientists to study how atoms behave when frozen and without the influence of gravity. On Earth, scientists can only observe these atoms for fractions of a second.

By creating the coldest site in the universe, NASA scientists would be able to create or observe the Bose-Einstein condensates in space. Thompson implies that the results of the study could potentially reshape human kind's understanding of matter and the "fundamental nature of gravity."

As per JPL, five scientific teams are lined up to perform experiments using the CAL. Among them is Nobel Prize winner Eric Cornell of the University of Colorado, Boulder and the National Institute for Standards and Technology. Cornell had a hand in creating the first Bose-Einstein condensates in a laboratory setting back way back in 1995.

After the CAL reaches the ISS and creating the coldest site in the universe, scientists now study how the atom behaves when frozen. The result of this research would have an impact on future development of sensors, quantum computers, and atomic clocks in spacecraft navigation.

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