Summer is officially here, which means it's time to go back to sun, sweat, and the outdoors. In the coming days/weeks, you'll likely stumble upon the obligatory comment "a really hot one out there, eh."
While relatively speaking, it might be a "hot one," in the context of our entire Earth and the universe it resides in, it's not hot at all—not even close. Here are things to help provide a more universal definition to what "hot" really means.
The heat of a pepper is measured in Scovilles, and there's a race to the top to beat the next pepper's heat. The famous ghost pepper rates in at a little over a million Scovilles. The Carolina Reaper, on the other hand, hits upwards of 1.6 million. For comparison, a jalapeño clocks in at most at 20,000 Scovilles, meaning the hottest jalapeño is barely more than one percent the heat of a Carolina Reaper.
Willie Jones is lucky to be alive. He had the highest fever ever recorded, at a . That's well past the point of severe organ damage, hallucinations, and seizures. He endured 24 days in the hospital for a reported heat stroke.
A CERN experiment at the Large Hadron Collider created the when it reached 9.9 trillion degrees Fahrenheit. The experiment was meant to make a primordial goop called a quark–gluon plasma behave like a frictionless fluid.
That's more than 366,000 times hotter than the center of the Sun.
At the bottom of our ocean, cracks in the Earth's crust create "hot spots" where magma hits water and the water boils forth into a "supercritical liquid" under all that pressure. The hottest water of any hydrothermal vent is coming out of Two Boats and Sisters Peak.
The vents are typically around 764 degrees Fahrenheit, but a few bursts spewed out an alarming . That's as hot as the surface of Venus, making it a not so pleasant place to be. The vents were likely formed in a 2002 earthquake, making them fairly fresh as far as small oceanic volcanoes go.
Some hydrothermal vents support microbial (and even occassional macrobial) life, but this is far too hot for any of those. The most extreme extremophile 250 degrees F.
In 1913, the Death Valley area of California reached 134 degrees Fahrenheit. The low elevation of the valley creates an oven where temperatures spike up high.
This happened on July 10 and was certainly a big outlying event. Usually temperatures there hover closer to 125 degrees in July, though the past few years have seen spikes of up to 129 degrees.
Don't worry, though. It's a desert, so it's a dry heat.
Temperatures in Libya were believed to have beaten this record in the 1920s when their mercury hit 136 degrees, but several errors may have . But the Death Valley temperature record is itself .
Death Valley (or ... somewhere else, depending on who you ask) may have the hottest AIR temperature on Earth, but the most scorching hot it's ever gotten on the surface of the Earth happened in 2005 when the Lut Desert in Iran reached 159 degrees F.
The Lut Desert often competes with the shrublands of Queensland, Australia, and the Flaming Mountains of China for the hottest land temperatures on Earth. So while Death Valley's air temperatures may get hot, the ground temperatures in these regions can get even hotter.
Temperatures on Venus can reach 860 degrees F, strangely hotter than the 800 degree temperatures of Mercury, a planet closer to the Sun. But Venus' runaway greenhouse effect ratchets up the planet's surface temperature. The once-likely-habitable planet began to trap in carbon dioxide at some point, creating thick smoggy oven that can melt lead.
The longest any probe has lasted on the planet fell just short of two hours. Mercury may have had an atmosphere beyond the tenuous one it has now, so it may have, at one point, been the hottest planet.
The surface of the Sun is typically a balmy 10,000 degrees F. But deep inside, there's a . Strangely, though the surface of the Sun is only 10,000 degrees, its corona — the outermost layer of its atmosphere — is 1.8 million degrees, the hottest part of the Sun's atmosphere.
But that's not the hottest part of the upper atmosphere, per se. Prominences, sunspots, and other areas of the Sun can get up to 7.2 million degrees. There's not enough sunscreen in the world to protect you from that, but NASA has an inventive way they're going to try to study it. The will use a carbon shield to blaze a way through the corona and come within 4 million miles of grazing its surface.
Eta Carinae is a blue hypergiant binary star 7,500 light years away that is seemingly ready to blow up into a supernova at any moment. One star is around 100 times the mass of the Sun, while the other is between 50 and 80 times the size of the sun.
Inside this cauldron, temperatures reach 72,000 degrees Fahrenheit just on the surface of the stars. But as the stars reach a nearest approach, the hot gas between the two can reach up to 1,799,540 degrees.
KELT-9b swiftly moves around its massive home star in less than two days. Owing to its proximity to its star and the star's relative youth (300 million years), it is bombarded with so much of the star's energy that it can reach 7,280 degrees F.
In fact, this is hot enough to destroy molecules, and the star may be evaporating the planet away bit-by-bit, giving it a comet-like tail. If it doesn't get stripped of its materials entirely, it may be unlucky enough to get eaten by its expanding star.
Suffice to say, it is not a habitable planet.
The dead star at the center of the Red Spider Nebula has a surface temperature of 250,000 degrees F, which is 25 times the temperature of the Sun's surface. This white dwarf may, indeed, be the hottest object in the universe. Like many white dwarfs, it is likely the size of Earth and is the core of a Sun-like star after it expels its atmosphere in a red giant event.
Measuring a white dwarf temperature is hard, owing to their small size. That said, the Red Spider Nebula may have competition from the white dwarf at the center of , which reaches similarly high temperatures.
At 36 to 72 trillion degrees F, it would be hard to top the region around Quasar 3C 273, a region so hot that it stretches the limits of what was thought possible for plasma. This could be because the plasma is made of a particle other than electrons — in this case, possibly protons.
Incidentally, 3C 273 was the first quasar ever identified. At first, scientists didn't know what they were, especially as this one was erratic and powerful. But we've since discovered them to be the active supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies.