Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Swiss Cheese-Like Gas Cloud Holds Clues To Starquakes

Date:
April 4, 2001
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
By spinning ultra-cold sodium gas in a laboratory, NASA-funded scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge have created a gas cloud that resembles rounded Swiss cheese and is riddled with tiny whirlpools, like those that cause "starquakes" in space.

By spinning ultra-cold sodium gas in a laboratory, NASA-funded scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge have created a gas cloud that resembles rounded Swiss cheese and is riddled with tiny whirlpools, like those that cause "starquakes" in space.

Related Articles


This research may teach scientists more about the history of our universe and the stars within it and may eventually lead to vast improvements in highly precise atomic clocks.

The laboratory demonstration is related to puzzling glitches observed by astronomers in the otherwise smooth, rapid rotation of pulsars. A pulsar is a type of neutron star, a remnant of a dying star and one of the densest objects in the universe. Glitches in pulsar rotation are called "starquakes" and may occur when whirlpools, or vortices, form or decay.

"This was a breathtaking experience when we saw these vortices," said Dr. Wolfgang Ketterle, an MIT physics professor who led the research team. "We took this ultra-cold, fragile gas, and we were amazed that even though we put hundreds of whirlpools into it, the gas cloud remained stable and happy."

Ketterle and his colleagues, who conducted the research under a grant from the Biological and Physical Research Program through NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., cooled the sodium gas to less than one millionth of a degree above absolute zero (-273 Celsius or -460 Fahrenheit). At such extreme cold, the gas cloud converts to a peculiar form of matter called Bose-Einstein condensate, as predicted 75 years ago by Albert Einstein.

No physical container can hold such ultra-cold matter, so Ketterle's team used magnets to keep the cloud in place. They then used a laser beam to make the gas cloud spin, a process Ketterle compares to "stroking a ping-pong ball with a feather until it starts spinning."

The spinning sodium gas cloud, whose volume was one- millionth of a cubic centimeter, much smaller than a raindrop, developed a regular pattern of more than 100 whirlpools.

Previously, scientists in a laboratory had seen only one or a few quantum whirlpools in a superfluid; this was the first direct observation of many whirlpools. Both the sodium gas cloud and pulsars are superfluids, which allow matter to flow without friction. Scientists know that superfluids form quantum whirlpools as they rotate; quantum whirlpools reflect the smallest possible increase in rotation for the cloud or the pulsar. One might expect different behavior from the two systems, because the gas cloud is 100,000 times thinner than air, while a pulsar is about ten thousand trillion times denser than air.

"This was an example of a designer quantum system, where we make something happen in the laboratory that doesn't occur naturally on Earth," said Dr. Mark Lee, fundamental physics discipline scientist for the Office of Biological and Physical Research at NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. "Astronomers had observed these phenomena on pulsars but had no opportunity to manipulate them, until now."

The scientists were also challenged with how to photograph the quantum whirlpools, which were too small to be seen except with special magnification. They switched off the magnets containing the gas cloud, allowing it to expand to 20 times its original size, which made the whirlpools large enough to be photographed. As the cloud expanded, gravity made it fall, and the team had to take the picture quickly. These gravitational limitations would be absent in the near- weightless environment that will soon be available to researchers on the International Space Station.

Ketterle co-authored the quantum experiment paper, which is currently scheduled to appear in the April 20 issue of the journal Science, with Jamil Abo-Shaeer and Drs. Chandra Raman and Johnny Vogels, all of MIT. The research was funded by NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, the Army Research Office and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. JPL manages the Fundamental Physics in Microgravity Research Program for NASA's Office of Biological and Physical Research. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Visual depictions of the experiment are available at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/pictures/funphysics .

More information on the experiment and NASA's Biological and Physical Research Fundamental Physics Program can be found at the following web sites:

* http://amo.mit.edu/~bec

* http://spaceresearch.nasa.gov

* http://funphysics.jpl.nasa.gov


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Swiss Cheese-Like Gas Cloud Holds Clues To Starquakes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 April 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/04/010404080748.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2001, April 4). Swiss Cheese-Like Gas Cloud Holds Clues To Starquakes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/04/010404080748.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Swiss Cheese-Like Gas Cloud Holds Clues To Starquakes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/04/010404080748.htm (accessed October 26, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) IKEA is out with a new convertible desk that can convert from a sitting desk to a standing one with just the push of a button. Jen Markham explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

AFP (Oct. 24, 2014) A factory in China is busy making Ebola protective suits for healthcare workers and others fighting the spread of the virus. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Real-Life Transformer Robot Walks, Then Folds Into a Car

Real-Life Transformer Robot Walks, Then Folds Into a Car

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) Brave Robotics and Asratec teamed with original Transformers toy company Tomy to create a functional 5-foot-tall humanoid robot that can march and fold itself into a 3-foot-long sports car. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Police Testing New Gunfire Tracking Technology

Police Testing New Gunfire Tracking Technology

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) A California-based startup has designed new law enforcement technology that aims to automatically alert dispatch when an officer's gun is unholstered and fired. Two law enforcement agencies are currently testing the technology. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins