The International Space Station (ISS) will soon host the coldest spot in the entire universe, if everything goes according to plan.
This August, NASA plans to launch to the ISS an experiment that will freeze atoms to less than 1 billionth of a degree above absolute zero — more than 100 million times colder than the far reaches of deep space, agency officials said. (Earlier NASA statements put the experiment temperature at one ten billionth of a degree.)
The instrument suite, which is about the size of an ice chest, is called the Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL). It consists of lasers, a vacuum chamber and an electromagnetic “knife” that together will slow down gas particles until they are almost motionless. (Remember that temperature is just a measurement of how fast atoms and molecules are moving.) [Watch a video about the CAL]
If successful, CAL could help unlock some of the universe’s deepest mysteries, project leaders said.