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Coldest place in the universe

The ghostly Boomerang Nebula, coldest known place in the universe, reveals its true shape in this image from the giant ALMA radio telescope.

Image credit: NASA/JPL

Image credit: NASA/JPL

The Boomerang Nebula is a protoplanetary nebula located 5,000 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Centaurus. Researchers took the nebula’s temperature with the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) and learned it is a frigid minus 458 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 272 degrees Celsius).

That makes the Boomerang Nebula the coldest natural place known in the universe.

The Boomerang Nebula is believed to be a star system evolving toward the planetary nebula phase. A planetary nebula has nothing to do with planets. It’s a phase of life for older stars, when they slough off their outer layers, creating a cloud or nebula around the star. In the Boomerang, millimeter-scale dust grains mask portions of the nebula’s center so most escaping visible light is in two opposing lobes forming a distinctive hourglass shape as viewed from Earth. The outflowing gas is moving outwards at a speed of about 164 km/s and expanding rapidly as it moves out into space.

This gas expansion results in the nebula’s unusually low temperature.

Read more: The coldest place in the universe

Eleanor Imster