Multi-component Bose-Einstein condensates provide opportunities to explore experimentally the wealth of physics associated with the spin degrees of freedom. The ground-state properties and line-like vortex excitations of these quantum systems have been studied theoretically. In principle, nontrivial spin textures consisting of point-like topological excitations, or skyrmions, could exist in a multi-component Bose-Einstein condensate, owing to the superfluid nature of the gas. Although skyrmion excitations are already known in the context of nuclear physics and the quantum-Hall effect, creating these excitations in an atomic condensate would offer an opportunity to study their physical behaviour in much greater detail, while also enabling an ab initio comparison between theory and experiment. Here we investigate theoretically the stability of skyrmions in a fictitious spin-1/2 condensate of 87Rb atoms. We find that skyrmions can exist in such a gas only as a metastable state, but with a lifetime comparable to (or even longer than) the typical lifetime of the condensate itself.
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