Scientists have succeeded in creating a Bose-Einstein Condensate in space for the first time, with big implications for physics.
Based on a paper that Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose sent him in 1924, Einstein predicted the existence of an exotic state of matter that would ultimately be known as the Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC).
Basically, there’s a critical temperature below which particles take the form of a Bose-Einstein Condensate, a quantum gas that acts as a whole.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that physicists Eric A. Cornell, Wolfgang Ketterle, and Carl E. Wieman could make the first observation of the Bose-Einstein Condensate by cooling rubidium atoms to temperatures close to absolute zero.
The three American scientists won the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on BECs.
In the following years, BECs were created in labs and helped physicist study the behavior of matter on the quantum scale.
Last year, a team of international researchers managed to create a BEC in outer space for the first time, and now they’re giving updates of the mission.
The First Space-Born Bose-Einstein Condensate
In January 2017, the Matter-Wave Interferometry in Microgravity (MAIUS-1) mission launched toward space onboard a sounding rocket.
During the six minutes in which the rocket was flying in microgravity, a team of scientists succeeded in creating the first space-based Bose-Einstein Condensate.
Now, the team is reporting the results of these dozens of experiments conducted during the six minutes of microgravity flight.
Researchers say they performed no less than 110 interferometry experiments with their Bose-Einstein Condensate in space “in which we studied the phase transition from a thermal ensemble to a Bose-Einstein condensate and the collective dynamics of the resulting condensate.”
“Our results provide insights into conducting cold-atom experiments in space, such as precision interferometry, and pave the way to miniaturizing cold-atom and photon-based quantum information concepts for satellite-based implementation. In addition, space-borne Bose-Einstein condensation opens up the possibility of quantum gas experiments in low-gravity conditions.”
NASA has been developing its own space-based facility to create BECs and conduct quantum gas research, but taking a different approach.
Instead of launching a device on a rocket for minutes-worth of experiments, NASA is opting for a more permanent research facility in the form of its Cold Atom Laboratory launched last May.
In August, we reported that NASA’s CAL, described as the coolest spot in the universe, has already started generating clouds of Bose-Einstein Condensates.