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This Is the Shadow of a Single Atom

Illustration for article titled This Is the Shadow of a Single Atom

This isn't a wallpaper design from the seventies, or a close-up picture of the sun. Though it might look a little garish in orange, what you're actually looking at is the first ever recorded image of an atom's shadow.

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Captured at Griffith University in Brisbane, Queensland, the image was obtained using a custom-made ion trap, which is capable of holding a single atom at a time. Once you can do that, shining light of the correct wavelength past the atom is bound to cause a shadow—it's just a very, very small shadow.

To make it easier, they used a big atom—Ytterbium in fact, which has an atomic mass of 174—and cooled it right down to -273°C to keep it stable. They then illuminated it and captured the resulting shadow using a Fresnel lens.

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It's an amazing achievement, and the images might actually go on to be useful, too. The researchers explain that the techniques could be used to create extremely high-res biological imaging systems, that can monitor samples like DNA without damaging them. [Cosmos]

Image by Centre for Quantum Dynamics

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DISCUSSION

dude1111151
dude1111151

This article is incorrect. -273 degrees celcius is ABSOLUTE zero. While we can get CLOSE to such a temperature, WE HAVE NOT YET BEEN ABLE TO COOL ANYTHING to absolute zero. BE more specific. I can handle all of the typo's scattered around your articles but BE ACCURATE.