What Does the Coldest Known Place in the Universe look like?


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Astronomers at NASA using the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) took a look at the Boomerang planetary nebula; the coldest known place in the universe. Located in the Centaurus constellation, this body of molecules and gas has only been looked at through land telescopes in the past. This is the clearest picture we've ever had of it.



Remember that a planetary nebula is formed when a star dies and begins to shed its outer layers of particles as it becomes a white dwarf. These particles will float off into space, possibly colliding with more particles, and then more on top of that-to create something entirely new.

This nebula is 5,000 lightyears away. Think about that for a second. What you see in this picture is what that nebula looked like 5,000 years ago. In the time it took for that light to get here, Rome burned to the ground, the black plague ravaged Europe, the Mongols dominated most of Asia, the Allies landed at Normandy,  and we all were born. It's likely that the nebula we see right now is a white dwarf present-day. Of course, for us to know if it is or not, we'd have to wait another 5,000 years for the light to get to us-who knows where we'll be then? If we'll even be here? Will the human race ever get to see the dwarf that this nebula will one day form, if it hasn't already? Does it even matter?

To make this even more fascinating, this nebula is colder than the space around it. We see the orange in the center of it and believe we see warmth, but that is not the case here. The nebula itself sits at -458 degrees Fahrenheit, which is colder than empty space. Now, if you consider the fact that this light is 5,000 years old and the fact that it is quite possibly a full-fledged white dwarf now, it could be possible that this spot is no longer the coldest place in the universe. How incredible is it, then, that we can study a phenomenon so strange and so curious even though we missed it by 5,000 years?





2 Comments

This is one of those grey areas of science and also maybe one of the things we will never know about. What I was wondering though is how exactly can it be told from the telescope viewing that this nebula is the coldest part of the universe? Also after looking this up I found out that scientists are trying to reach the absolute zero temperature in their labs using which they might be able to understand the formation of the rest of the universe. They believe that under these temperatures they might be able to discover new matters which would explain the phenomenon behind the ever expanding universe. The way i see it is that there is probably more to the formation of the universe than the Higgs-Boson particle which is being called the god particle and there are still more mysteries there waiting to be reveled. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/phenom-200801.html

this was a very insightful post. I liked the way you put the time it took the light to get here in prospective. What about this nebula makes it the coldest though? Here is an interesting article that answers my question and many more.
http://guardianlv.com/2013/10/boomerang-nebula-even-colder-than-the-afterglow-of-the-big-bang/

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