DR. SKY BLOG

Searching the universe for coldest place known to humanity

Nov 3, 2021, 2:00 PM
The Boomerang Nebula (NASA, ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team-STScI/AURA Photo)...
The Boomerang Nebula (NASA, ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team-STScI/AURA Photo)
(NASA, ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team-STScI/AURA Photo)

We often talk about the weather and weather extremes here on Earth, with record high global temperatures around 134 degrees. On the other side, we hear of record low global temperatures of nearly minus 200 degrees.

While those seem extreme and certainly are, we now look to the local solar system and the entire universe for the low and high extremes out there.

First, let’s talk about what we know as the lowest temperature possible in the world of physics.

This is an absolute, which is known simply as absolute zero, a measure of how fast atoms or molecules are moving within a substance.

The lower the temperature, the slower they move and when that movement stops, we come to a term we call absolute zero.

The definitive temperature of absolute zero is listed as minus 459.67 degrees.

This is an amazing number and one that must lurk somewhere in deep space, or is it closer to us than we think?

Let’s start with the entire universe first.

Astronomers now tell us that they have located the coldest place so far in the universe!

That place is known as the Boomerang Nebula, located in the constellation of Centaurus, 5,000 light years away. It’s a small planetary nebula with a central star that is losing mass at an incredible rate.

Inside the nebula, the temperature was measured at the incredibly low minus 459 degrees.

That is so close to the actual measure of absolute zero.

Here is more information on the Boomerang Nebula.

Closer to home, we find additional mind-bending data which reveals two equally amazing locations in our own solar system.

First we come to the largest satellite of Neptune – Triton. This large moon has a surface temperature of at least minus 400 degrees. The surface of Triton may also have many active volcanoes too.

More on this temperature extreme.

Finally, a real surprise to many, the other coldest place in the solar system is not all that far away from Earth.

Our moon is also listed as one of the coldest places in the entire solar system.

Recent data from a lunar probe measured temperature at the north pole of the moon at minus 413 degrees. This is most incredible as the location of this temperature measurement is deep inside a crater, which never sees the light of the sun.

The crater is known as Hermite.

Here are the details.

This discovery is very important in understanding just how amazing the universe is and how little we really know about what makes it tick.

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday at 3 a.m.

Podcasts are available here.

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Searching the universe for coldest place known to humanity