Astronomers find a spot that's colder than space itself!
Boomerang Nebula is the coldest place yet known.
Astronomers have identified what they think may be one of the coldest places in the universe. A nebula, 5,000 light years away, harbors temperatures as low as two degrees Fahrenheit above absolute zero.
Warms is often measured by how excited atoms become when exposed to radiation. On Earth, we prefer our atoms to be excited to around 72°F, life having largely evolved around that temperature, give or take.
Yet, deep in space, there is a place even colder than space itself.
Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, (no pun intended) astronomers found a place that was even colder than the comic microwave background radiation, which is a very faint echo of the Big Bang itself. That place is the Boomerang Nebula, where the temperature is a frigid -457.7°F.
The Boomerang Nebula is colder than space itself because it is a region of gas, thrown off by an exploded star. As the molecules of gas expand outward, they cool, which is a basic law of physics. As gasses expand, they cool. This simple phenomenon is what makes the nebula so cold.
It is likely that there are many other nebulas with cold pockets like those in the Boomerang.
This discovery helps scientists to put together precisely how stars blow themselves apart and what happens afterwards. It is reasonable to think that a similar phenomenon occurs following the death of most stars.
This provides astronomers with insight into how our Solar System may have come to be as well. Since our Sun and the planets formed out of a primordial cloud of dust and gas given off by one or more now long-dead stars, knowing what happens when stars die tells us what probably happened before the Earth was created. The knowledge helps us to understand ourselves and our universe just a little bit better.
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