If you're dreading the winter cold, know that things could be a lot worse. Scientists in Italy have cooled 880 pounds of copper to a temperature approaching absolute zero; that's 0 Kelvin, or -459.67 degrees Fahrenheit, Science Daily reports. The copper reached a temperature of -459.66 Fahrenheit, Phys.org reports. "The cooled copper mass ... was the coldest cubic meter in the universe for over 15 days," says the National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN in Italian). "It is the first experiment ever to cool a mass and a volume of this size to a temperature this close to absolute zero."
The work was conducted as part of the Cryogenic Underground Observatory for Rare Events, a project based in central Italy but including some 130 scientists from Europe, the US, and China. The copper was cooled in a chamber called a cryostat, which INFN calls "the only one of its kind in the world." It's capable of setting "extreme temperatures" and has very little radioactivity, the institute explains. So why do all this? Well, it has to do with the study of matter: Examining subatomic particles involved in the process could help researchers explain why there's so much matter—as opposed to antimatter—out there. (Read more absolute zero stories.)