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Ye Ole Empty can in space

  1. Jun 27, 2012 #1
    This may have been asked before but I am new here and my kid came to me and asked me this and I don't have an answer so the question is you take an empty can unsealed (nondescript container) into space expose the container to the vacuum of space seal the container and bring it back to earth. Whats in the container?

  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 27, 2012 #2
    This is the wrong sub-forum for this question, but space is not a perfect vaccuum. Even in the emptiest parts of the universe between galaxies you'd still find an atom or so for a couple cubic meters. So the answer to your question depends very much on where you did this experiment.

    However, if you want to idealize things and ask what is in the can if you did it in perfect vacuum then the answer is nothing.
  4. Jun 27, 2012 #3


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    There would be practically nothing in the container. There may be some tiny amounts of hydrogen which are present in space but for most intents and purposes the can is a vacuum. When you bring the can back, it would be crushed due to atmospheric pressure acting on the outside of the can.
  5. Jun 27, 2012 #4
    Assuming the can was strong enough not to be crushed you would have almost nothing. The "almost" allows for a stray atom or few that may have been in the area when you closed your can, vacuum energy (which by the way would also exist if the can were full of air, water, whatever), a few atoms of the cans material which would evaporate from the interior surface, and dark matter (which could probably care less if the can existed or not, it will come and go as it pleases through any can wall you care to construct.)
  6. Jun 27, 2012 #5
    Actually, atoms evaporate from the metal can, so you might measure a trace of the atoms from the element the can was made of.
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