Astronomers Aboard the ISS Create The Fifth State of Matter

Matter was born along with the Big Bang, when it all was compressed in a very small singularity along with space and time themselves. Each hydrogen atom that exists in our bodies was created along with the Big Bang, and heavier atoms like those for iron or zinc were created within the nuclear furnaces of stars and supernovas. This means that most of the matter from our bodies existed in a way or another way before Earth was even created.

It’s true that we would like to know a lot more about how could the Big Bang create matter. We also know that matter exists naturally in four states: solids, liquids, gases, and plasma. However, there’s a fifth state created by human intervention a quarter of a century ago: Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs). And now, in the pandemic year of 2020, scientists aboard the International Space Station had recreated this new form of matter in their microgravity environment.

What exactly is BECs

When an amount of atoms is cooled to almost absolute zero, those atoms begin to clump together, and start behaving as if they are one big “super-atom.” The fifth form of matter operates at the boundary between the world that we’re fully aware of daily, which is governed by classical physics, and the microscopic world, which plays by the jaw-dropping rules of quantum mechanics.

In the insane world of quantum mechanics, a particle can behave as it exists simultaneously in two locations. Furthermore, it can behave as both a particle and a wave, as in the case of photons. Because it follows at least a part of the rules of quantum physics, Bose-Einstein condensates has the potential of offering scientists important clues for how the micro-universe works. This could possibly lead to coming up with a “theory of everything” that could explain fully how the entire Universe works, from the smallest to the largest scales.

Robert Thompson, who is a physicist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, declared:

In the past, our major insights into the inner workings of nature have come from particle accelerators and astronomical observatories; in the future, I believe precision measurements using cold atoms will play an increasingly important role,

The researchers have created Bose-Einstein condensates by using rubidium atoms. Eventually, they also plan to use potassium atoms for investigating what happens when two condensates mix.

Matter is not all

The Universe is a lot more peculiar than we can imagine, whether we like to admit it or not. Matter in its four natural states (liquid, solid, gas, and plasma) is far from being the majority of what fills up the Cosmos. 68% of the Universe is made of dark energy, something that doesn’t include those 118 elements from the periodic table. Not even hydrogen is involved in dark energy, which is the simplest and most spread element from the Universe. Dark energy has the role of making the Universe to expand itself constantly, and scientists would sure like to know much more about the composition of this mysterious form of energy.

But besides matter and dark energy, we also have dark matter that makes up 27% of the Universe. Dark matter is made up of particles that do not reflect, absorb, or emit light. This means that they cannot be detected by observing electromagnetic radiation. The gravitational effects of dark matter are necessary to explain the movement of galaxies, clusters, and the largest scale-structure from the entire Universe.

There you have it, mater in all its five states is far from being everything that fills up the Universe. By using a little math, you can conclude for yourself that normal matter makes up only about 5% of the Universe.

The scientists from the International Space Station detailed their experiment with the fifth form of matter in the journal Nature.

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