The coldest place in the universe may have been found. Astronomers say that no, it’s not bus stop at 7 am. 5,000 light-years away a body named the Boomerang Nebula stays cool at a frosty one degree Kelvin. That’s minus 458 degrees Fahrenheit. The nebula, still in an early, pre-planetary stage, is even chillier than the ambient universe’s temperature, which sticks around minus 455 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Boomerang Nebula is unusual in several ways. Located in the constellation of Centaurus, this nebula remains dark and cold. Nebulae act as the universe’s star ovens — ingredients of gas and matter “bake” in a nebula, churning out stellar bodies like stars and solar systems. The Boomerang Nebula, however, does not seem to be baking very hot just yet. The body’s main source of light is a dim central star that isn’t hot enough to put out tons of ultraviolet radiation, according to Universe Today.
At the moment, that star’s light is so dim that astronomers are only able to see it with the aid of light from external stars. Those stars manage to reflect just enough off of the nebula’s many dust particles to illuminate it dimly. However, that dim central star? It’s expanding rapidly and may have much to do with what makes the Boomerang Nebula a contender for the coldest place in the universe.
Astronomers at Chile’s Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope say that the star at the center of the nebula is expanding quickly. Because of this, it is lowering its own temperature. As Science Daily explains, this cooling process is very similar to the way a household refrigerator works.
Many sources have been quick to declare the findings from ALMA to place the Boomerang Nebula as the coldest place in the universe. This is technically true, at present. However, a physics experiment conducted at the University of Colorado in 2010 temporarily created even lower temperatures, with measurements of minus 459 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s right: Boulder, Colorado was, at least briefly, the coldest place in the universe, beating out the current champion, the Boomerang Nebula.