Two years ago, NASA set out to create a fifth form of matter that’s not found in nature: the Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). This type of matter consists of clouds of a few million atoms that have been chilled with lasers inside a vacuum to temperatures even lower than in interstellar space.

On Earth, gravity makes BECs difficult to study because it makes them disappear within fractions of a second. Things are much different in space, where researchers can study this form of matter for much longer.

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