The Coldest Place in the Universe

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An image of the Boomerang Nebula.
What is causing the Boomerang nebula to be so cold (image credit: ALMA, NASA/ESA Hubble).

The Boomerang Nebula is the coldest location in the known universe: it measures at roughly 2 degrees colder than empty space! This nebula is the result of the death of a red giant star, and the extreme temperature is caused by the rapid expansion of the nebula. According to thermodynamics, if you expand a gas you, cool a gas (just try using one of those compressed air cans for cleaning electronics). However, according to astronomers, a single star's death could not account for a strong enough wind to create this expansion. Based on this hypothesis, and data from the ALMA observatory, astronomers now believe the expansion of the Boomerang Nebula is being driven by a companion star.

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The Coldest Place in the Universe
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Jesse Rogerson, PhD

As a passionate science communicator, Jesse Rogerson loves promoting science literacy to the public. He frequently represents the Canada Aviation and Space Museum on television and radio, social media, and at conferences. A trained and practicing astrophysicist, Jesse holds a PhD in observational astrophysics from York University, and publishes his research in peer-reviewed journals. Jesse enjoys riding his motorcycle, board games, and ultimate frisbee.