Today’s Top Space Headline –“Modeling the Big Bang on the International Space Station”

 

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An Antares rocket launched from Virginia this morning includes the Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) that will chill atoms to just about absolute zero—colder than the vacuum of space itself, creating Bose-Einstein condensates on board the ISS.

“Essentially, it’s going to allow us to do different kinds of things than we’d be able to do on Earth,” Gretchen Campbell, co-director of the University of Maryland’s Joint Quantum Institute, told Gizmodo. “Whenever you have new capabilities, that will lead to new and exciting physics.”


Bose-Einstein condensates are collections of certain atoms (like rubidium, for example) held motionless by lasers, which cools them to temperatures just above absolute zero, magnifying the effects of quantum mechanics to nearly macroscopic scales, making them easier to probe. Scientists have used Bose-Einstein condensates to create entirely new states of matter, quantum entangle thousands of atoms, and even model the Big Bang.

Because there’s only microgravity on board the ISS, scientists can perform experiments and observe the Bose-Einstein condensates for longer periods than on Earth where gravity is in full force.

Since these systems magnify the effects of quantum mechanics to larger scales, they could be used to gain insights about unrelated systems. Perhaps the system could provide insight into the nature of dark energy, the mysterious force accelerating the expansion of the universe that seems to account for two-thirds of the universe’s energy, according to a NASA fact sheet.

The Daily Galaxy via Gizmodo 

Image credit: With thanks to  Dreamtime.com

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