Have scientists ever made anything hotter than the Sun?

Thursday 17th December 2009
Submitted by Guest
Alex Jackson, Cambridge

In the desert of New Mexico on 16 July 1945, an international team of scientists succeeded in creating a device that reached temperatures of several hundred million degrees centigrade – far in excess of the 15 million degrees at the Sun’s core. That device was an atomic bomb of the kind dropped on Japan a few weeks later.

Similar temperatures are now routinely and safely generated in nuclear fusion machines, like the Joint European Torus in Oxfordshire. The highest temperature ever reached under controlled conditions is an astonishing two billion degrees. It was created in the so-called Z-machine at the Sandia Laboratories, New Mexico, which uses incredibly high electric currents and magnetic fields to release radiation from atoms.

It’s not always necessary to use such dramatic means to reach high temperatures, however. In 2005, scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign triggered temperatures of over 20,000 degrees – far hotter than the surface of the Sun – by crushing vapour trapped in tiny bubbles.

Can We Make Artificial Blood?
previous qanda Article
How does popcorn pop?
next qanda Article
Q&A Tabs

Viagra is the brand name for sildenafil citrate, a drug that was originally studied for use in patients with high blood pressure or heart disease. It works by blocking the action of an enzyme...

Let us know what you think this image is in the comments below. It features in our August issue's Q&A section. The answer will be revealed in the September issue.

...

Lobsters and other shellfish have harmful bacteria naturally present in their flesh. Once the lobster is dead, these bacteria can rapidly multiply and release toxins that may not be destroyed by...

Because of the orientation and tilt of their orbits, the eight major planets of the Solar System can never come into perfect alignment. The last time they appeared even in the same part of the...

Beard hair is quite different to head hair; it is coarser, curlier and doesn't fall out as we get older. Comparatively little work has been done on the genetics of human hair colour, but it is...

All female mammals have a clitoris, the sole purpose of which is to react to sexual stimulation, and presumably this stimulation has evolved to be pleasurable for most species. But establishing...

To create a sound, we have to set matter - whether it's a gas like air, a liquid or even a solid material - in regular motion, creating a wave of specific frequencies, which we hear as a sound of...

Mirrors don’t reverse left and right either – that’s just our interpretation of what happens. Your reflection in the mirror is actually reversed front to back – if you have...

Discovered by an American student named Gary Flandro in the mid-1960s, the slingshot manoeuvre usually involves spacecraft briefly 'coat-tailing' a planet orbiting the Sun, extracting some of the...

The ice disappears because the wind blows away water molecules that have evaporated or 'sublimed' from the ice, so the ice slowly shrinks in size. The molecules that escape are those with the...