Have you ever wondered about the coldest place in the Universe? The absolute zero of temperature is at -273’15 ° C and, although it is physically impossible to reach it, there are celestial bodies that come very close. Let’s see the coldest place in the Universe.
The Coldest places in the Universe
The lowest temperature measured on our planet was recorded in July 1983 at the Vostok Base, a Russian research station located in Antarctica. -89.2 ° C. Unbelievably cold. And not only that, but a scientific study by satellites carried out between 2014 and 2016 showed that there were places on the earth’s surface that could reach -98 ºC.
This is the least temperature limit that can exist on our planet. Therefore, it is to be supposed that, taking into account that the Earth is a warm world, if we undertake a journey through the most inhospitable corners of the Universe, we will find more, colder places.
But the truth is that the laws of thermodynamics stop much lower temperatures. In fact, no matter how lost and distant from the heat of a star a celestial body is, it can never be colder than -273’15 ºC.
But why just this temperature? Why is there an absolute zero? Can’t you lower the temperature anymore? Are there substances in the Universe that reach or approach this temperature? In today’s article, we will not only explain why you cannot get below -273’15 ºC, but we will also undertake a journey through the Cosmos to find the coldest places.
What is temperature?
Before entering the most incredibly cold places in the Universe, it is important to understand what exactly temperature is, as that will lead us to understand why there is an absolute zero. Temperature is, broadly speaking, an intrinsic property of everybody that relates energy to particle motion.
As we well know, all material bodies in the Universe are necessarily made up of particles, that is, atoms and subatomic particles. Well, all these particles have certain energy inside them. The larger this is, the more they will move. That is, the more energy, the faster they move. And the less energy, the slower they move.
From here the energy is derived directly since it is a physical quantity that depends on this movement. Everything is made up of moving particles (everything in the Universe) that have a temperature that depends on the speed of movement of these particles that compose it.
The temperature will generate will be higher as more particles will move. And, on the contrary, the slower they do it, the less temperature it will generate. To understand it, let’s think about water. When its particles move fastly, we are dealing with a liquid. On the contrary, when its movement is slower, it becomes solid (obviously, the movement of particles is less), which happens at lower temperatures.
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Why is there an absolute zero?
As we have seen, as the temperature drops, the fewer the particles that make up matter move. And, by deduction, there has to come a time when the particles have lost so much speed that they are simply totally still.
When does this happen? Exactly. When we reach -273’15 ºC. At this temperature, the particles lose almost all their energy and simply do not move. Now, this is, by the laws of thermodynamics, impossible.
Nothing can be exactly at -273’15 ºC, since it is physically impossible for the energy of a body (and its particles) to be zero. There will always be, no matter how slowly, movement, as it is an intrinsic property of matter.
In this sense, we can get very close to this absolute zero but never reach it (and much less go lower). However, as we will see below, there are places in the Universe that are very close to it. And even we here on Earth have made some facilities where they have gotten as close as physical laws allow at this zero temperature.
What are the places with the lowest temperatures in the Cosmos?
Now that we have agreed on what the temperature is and why it is difficult to drop below -273’15 ºC, we can start our journey in search of the coldest places in the Universe, which will take us from our Solar System to the most inhospitable confines of the Cosmos. Let’s go there. We will present them ordered from highest to lowest temperatures.
10. Vostok Base, Antarctica: -89’2 ºC
With the exception of satellite measurements that measured temperatures of -98 ° C in certain areas of the Earth, this is the lowest temperature recorded by a thermometer on Earth. Founded in 1957, the Vostok Base is a Russian research station located in Antarctica, just over 1,300 km from the Earth’s South Pole.
In it, 13 scientists work during the winter and 25 in the summer, which carries out experiments and studies of magnetism and extraction of ice cores. There, on July 21, 1983, the thermometers read a staggering -89.2 ºC. For now, it’s the coldest ever known on this earth.
9. Mercury at night: -170 ºC
We leave Earth and, from now on, things get very, very cold; so much so that they are difficult to imagine. It is strange that one of the coldest places in the universe we know of is Mercury since it is the planet in the Solar System closest to the Sun. Technically, it would have to be the hottest, right? Now we will understand.
Located “only” 58 million kilometers from the Sun (Earth is more than 149 million), Mercury has incredible fluctuations in temperature. Mercury has the lightest atmosphere in the entire Solar System and also has a very slow rotation period of 58 days. It takes all this time to turn on itself. That is, one day on Mercury is resembling 58 Earth days.
This means that there is always a part that spends a long time away from solar radiation, which, together with the fact that its atmosphere is not capable of retaining heat, means that, although in the areas where the light falls, it is possible to reach 467 ºC, temperatures in the region “at night” drop to -180 ºC.
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8. Uranus: -205 ºC
Uranus is the seventh planet in this Solar System. It is very extreme and belongs to the group of planets known literally as “ice giants”, so in this case, it is not surprising that it is one of the coldest places that we know of in the Universe.
This planet is 2,871 million kilometers from the Sun (remember that the Earth is 149 million), so even light, which travels at 300,000 km / s, takes almost 3 hours to reach it. Therefore, the energy it receives from the Sun is very low.
Due to this huge distance, the average temperature on It is -205 ºC, although temperatures of -218 ºC have been recorded. We are approaching absolute zero, but our journey has only just begun.
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7. Neptune: -218 ºC
Neptune is the planet furthest from the Sun, at a staggering 4,500 million kilometers. It is so very far away that it takes 165 years to complete one revolution around the Sun. The core of this planet is surrounded by an icy surface, with water ice, methane, and ammonia. In its atmosphere, winds can exceed 2,000 km / h, twice that of a Boeing plane.
As if this were not enough, the enormous distance from the Sun means that its average temperature is -218 ºC, although they can easily drop to -223 ºC. It is believed that these could even reach -260 ºC, but we do not place it later in the Top since what really counts is the average temperature.
6. Planet “Hoth”: -223 ºC
The planet OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb, better known as planet Hoth (in honor of the famous ice world from the Star Wars movie saga), is the coldest planet in the Universe. Discovered in 2005, this hostile planet revolves around a red dwarf star, which is the least energetic type of star.
Located just over 21,000 light-years from Earth, near the center of the Milky Way, this planet is, for now, the coldest in the Universe. Its average temperature is -223 ºC, thus surpassing Neptune.
5. Pluto: -229 ºC
We have said that “Hoth” is the coldest planet in the Universe. So why is Pluto ahead? Well, because, let’s remember, Pluto is not a planet. He lost this title in 2006 by failing to meet one of the requirements. Which we consider as such.
Be that as it may, Pluto is a heavenly body that revolves around the Sun at an unbelievable average distance of 5,913 million kilometers, although in some phases, by not following a perfectly circular path, it can reach 7,400 million kilometers. Also, it is called the coldest place in the universe.
Being smaller than the Moon, this “dwarf planet” with a rocky surface has extremely low temperatures, with an average temperature of -229 ºC, which can reach -240 ºC.
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4. Faustini Crater, Moon: -240 ºC
It is surprising that the coldest place in the Solar System and one of the coldest of what we know in the Universe is so close to home. Indeed, the lowest temperature in the entire Solar System is on the Moon.
Located 384,400 kilometers from Earth, our satellite has, at its south pole (where sunlight never falls), a crater known as the Faustini crater. An average temperature of -240 ºC is on record.
3. Average temperature of the Universe: -270.4 ºC
We enter the Top 3 and surprises arrive. And it is that although it may not seem like it, the average temperature in the Universe is -270.4 ºC, just 3 degrees above absolute zero. Although this has an explanation.
And not only that practically the entire Universe is empty, but it is expanding. The matter is more and more separated and, therefore, the average temperature is getting lower and lower. In any case, it does not make much sense to speak of “average temperature in the Universe”, because in the space vacuum, heat does not propagate, since (although there are always particles) there is no matter that transmits it. It is enough to stay with the idea that the Universe is, every time, a colder place.
The Universe has been cooling since its birth.
2. Boomerang Nebula: -272 ° C
We finally arrived at the coldest place in the Universe that exists naturally. Located 5,000 light-years from Earth, the Boomerang Nebula is a cloud of gas and dust that is home to small stars in the final phase of their existence. It is only 1 degree above absolute zero.
But why is it so cold? This giant cloud with a diameter of 2 light-years is undergoing a very rapid expansion of the gas that makes it up. In fact, it is expanding at more than 600,000 kilometers per hour. And a gas that expands causes a decrease in temperature. If you do it in these amounts and at such high speeds, it is no wonder that such incredibly low temperatures we can achieve.
And this does not happen in other nebulae? Yes, all nebulae in “dying” star systems expand, but at much slower speeds. In the Boomerang Nebula, the expansion is 100 times faster, so the drop in temperature is much more pronounced. It is said to be the coldest place in the universe.
1. Cold Atoms Laboratory: -273.14999999999 ºC
We reached the end of our journey. And although surprising, the coldest place in the Universe is on Earth. Not naturally, of course, but artificial. NASA scientists developed a few years ago a center known as the “Cold Atoms Laboratory”. Which was installed on the International Space Station (microgravity conditions were needed), which orbits 408 km from Earth. The researchers managed to obtain (in June 2020) what is known as the Bose-Einstein condensate. Which is already classified as the fifth state of matter (after solid, liquid, gas, and plams). In which the particles of matter go to a ground state of minimum energy. It’s the closest you can get to absolute zero. In fact, it is only one billionth of a degree above absolute zero. It seems impossible, for now, that there is something coldest place in the Universe