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Astronomers Photograph The Coldest Place In The Universe

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Astronomers have released a picture of what they claim might be the coldest place in the universe.

The 'ghostly shape' in the picture is actually the Boomerang Nebula, located 5,000 light-years away in the constellation Centaurus.

It was discovered by researchers working with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).

alma

Above: the Boomerang Nebula

What it shows is an odd example of a planetary nebula, or the wreckage of a star like our Sun which has thrown off its outer layers. The Boomerang Nebula is a very young example, so young that its central star is not hot enough to emit ultraviolet radiation. The result is that the gas expands away from the star and rapidly cools, a process that is similar to the way that refrigerators work.

The result is that the nebula is actually colder than the cosmic microwave background radiation - or the leftover echo of the big bang: minus 458 degrees Fahrenheit or a "crisp" one degree Kelvin.

"This ultra-cold object is extremely intriguing and we're learning much more about its true nature with ALMA," said Raghvendra Sahai, a researcher and principal scientist at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and lead author of a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal.

"What seemed like a double lobe, or 'boomerang' shape, from Earth-based optical telescopes, is actually a much broader structure that is expanding rapidly into space."

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