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Mysterious Black Hole Reaches 18 Trillion Degrees

How hot is hot? How hot is really hot? How hot is the hottest hot that hot can get? If you said 100 billion degrees Kelvin (179 billion degrees Fahrenheit), you’re one of those sharp people who’s up on their theoretical limits – that’s the scientifically-accepted theoretical temperature limit … until now. Russian researchers have discovered a black hole that added two zeroes to the theoretical limit when it was measured at 10 trillion degrees Kelvin or 18 trillion degrees Fahrenheit. Is this quasar having the mother of all hot flashes?

This temperature record was determined at Moscow’s Lebedev Physical Institute where Yuri Kovalev worked with fellow astronomers at three other observatories to link four telescopes together – the Russian Skeptr-R satellite and three ground telescopes that were part of the RadioAstron mission which combines the signals of radio telescopes using a technique called interferometry to make one that’s the equivalent of eight Earth diameters wide.

Quasar 3C273 and jet taken by Chandra X-ray Observatory

Quasar 3C273 and jet taken by Chandra X-ray Observatory

According to the study in The Astrophysical Journal, the telescopes were pointed at the giant quasar 3C 273, which is in an elliptical galaxy in the constellation Virgo, 2.5 billion light years away. The precision of this interferometry-created telescope set the temperature of the jets shooting out of this black hole at an astonishing 18 trillion degrees F.

This result is very challenging to explain with our current understanding of how relativistic jets of quasars radiate. This means that our traditional theories about how quasars’ cores emit light are incorrect.

That understatement is from Yuri Kovalev, who must now come up with a new explanation or be kicked off the island (wait, wrong reality show). One theory for the record temperature of the black hole’s jets is that it’s actually accelerating protons instead of the generally-assumed electrons – electrons cool each other down with X-rays and gamma rays. However, because protons are so much larger than electrons, the energy needed to accelerate them is beyond comprehension. Then again, so was a temperature above 100 billion Kelvin.

An artist's depiction of the Skeptr-R satellite telescope

An artist’s depiction of the Skeptr-R satellite telescope

Kovalev admits that this and other theories for the black hole hot flash have, well, black holes in them. That doesn’t bother him.

Obviously, for a scientist, there is nothing more pleasant, exciting and successful than to get a result that does not comply with a theory, because this is the most effective way to push the scientific research further.

Spoken like a true geek.


Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.
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