On May 21, NASA is going to launch an experiment that will be held on the International Space Station. In this experiment, scientists will be able to instill a temperature that will be 10 billion times colder than what is the temperature in the vacuum of the space. The primary objective of this experiment is to focus in on atoms and their weird quantum of behavior.
The Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) is considered to be a physics research place which is in a size equivalent to ice chest which is built and designed by Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA. The main of the mission would be chill down atoms with the help of lasers as well as magnets inside the space station which will be close to absolute zero or the lowest possible temperature. It is said that researchers will be in a position to conduct experiments every day for 6.5 hours without the help of any astronomers. This statement was made by NASA through its project page for CAL.
As described above the atoms will be chilled down to an absolute zero temperature, and such a situation will be called as the Bose-Einstein condensates (BEC) in which the clouds contain atoms which are too cold. As a result, the molecules move very slowly. However, in case of Earth’s gravity, the atoms that are moving freely cannot be slowed down to the extent the physicists require. It becomes challenging for them to study the patterns, not more than for a fraction of a second. The scientists, as a result, find it very difficult to understand their quantum characteristics.
However, the situation is very much different inside the space station due to an environment the of microgravity. In this situation, the gravity of our Earth does not get in the way. As a result, it becomes much more comfortable for the scientists to slow down the atoms. The process of slowing down is done with the help of magnetic forces as well as lasers within an “ice-chest” like equipment. The lasers help to slow down the movement of the atoms to a great extent. This statement was confirmed by Robert Shotwell who is the CAL project manager and also an engineer at JPL.
Understanding the quantum of atoms is one of the main important thread in the subject of physics and thus creating a conducive environment for studying the characteristics is very much relevant.