October 25, 2013
At a cosmologically crisp one degree Kelvin (minus 458 degrees Fahrenheit), the Boomerang nebula is the coldest known object in the universe — colder, in fact, than the faint afterglow of the Big Bang, the explosive event that created the cosmos.
Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in Chile have taken a new look at this object to learn more about its frigid properties and to determine its true shape, which has an eerily ghost-like appearance.
“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 in Pasadena, Calif., 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.”