Research showed on Thursday June 11, 2020 that scientists have observed the fifth state of quantum matter in space for the first time ever.
This new research offers insight into what could help us solve some of the quantum universe’s most previously guarded mysteries.
The BECs (Bose-Einstein condensates), the existence of such was predicted by Albert Einstein, was the name given to what forms when atoms of certain elements are cooled to near absolute zero temperature (0 Kelvin, minus 273.15 Celsius), at which point the atoms become single entities with quantum properties, which also allows them to function as a wave of matter.
Scientists have stated that they believe the BECs contain important clues to mysterious phenomena that is currently unexplained, such as dark matter that makes up about a quarter of the universe (roughly 68% of the universe is dark energy while about 27% is dark matter).
If BECs have the slightest interaction with the external world, it’s enough to warm the BECs past their condensation threshold which makes them extremely fragile and nearly impossible to study them on earth due to the gravitational force interfering with the magnetic fields required to keep them in place.
Unfortunately the BECs dissipate in a few milliseconds when observed in a lab on earth, so to discover more, we must take to the skies and research outside of Earth’s gravitational forces.
A team of NASA scientists shared the first BEC experiment results on Thursday aboard the ISS. Robert Thompson from the California Institute of Technology shared:
“Microgravity allows us to confine atoms with much weaker forces, since we don’t have to support them against gravity,”
The BECs lasted a few seconds on the ISS, a significant improvement to their duration on Earth. This allowed much longer observation, and even though it was only a few seconds, it was long enough to allow for clearer imaging due to the microgravity allowing the atoms to be manipulated by weaker magnetic fields.