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Hypervelocity stars could leave the galaxy

Posted on Tuesday, 14 January, 2014 | Comment icon 12 comments

What is behind the stars' high speed ? Image Credit: NASA / A. Fujii
Astronomers have identified a mysterious group of 20 sun-sized stars travelling at high speed.
Hypervelocity stars can occur when a binary star system is caught by a black hole, which under the correct circumstances can cause one of the stars to be sucked in towards it and the other to be flung off out in to space at a speed fast enough to break free from the galaxy's gravitational pull.

Over the last ten years astronomers have identified 18 of these stars originating from the super-massive black hole at the center of our galaxy, yet more recently they have also discovered 20 additional examples that don't appear to have come from the galactic core.

These sun-sized hypervelocity stars represent something of a mystery as there is no clear explanation as to how they came to be traveling so quickly. With speeds of more than one million miles per hour relative to the galaxy however it is only a matter of time before these super-fast celestial bodies end up leaving the Milky Way entirely.

Source: Popular Science | Comments (12)

Tags: Hypervelocity Stars

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #3 Posted by highdesert50 on 15 January, 2014, 3:19
This would be an interesting method for an advanced civilization to explore; accelerate an entire solar system while living relatively comfortably on a habitable self-sustaining planet.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Frank Merton on 15 January, 2014, 3:53
As I understand it these are stars that once were companions of stars that exploded, becoming runaways as because of the ensuing slingshot effect. Not having access to the entire article, I can't say why they report this as a new discovery, since such stars have been known about for quite awhile. The odds of two such systems coming close enough to be a hazard have been calculated and if memory serves it is too small to worry about -- like maybe one or two such encounters might happen over the life of the galaxy.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Sundew on 15 January, 2014, 14:17
The space between stars is so vast that supposedly two galaxies can collide without the individual stars ever (or extremely rarely) colliding. There was an experiment you could do I saw on a website a year or so ago, I may have the relative distances wrong (since it was quite a while ago), but I think as an example if you draw a period sized dot on the ground, then you walk about five miles and draw another dot and that gives the relative distance between our sun and the nearest star. Again, I may have the relative sizes and distances off but you get the idea of how big space is and why star... [More]
Comment icon #6 Posted by Frank Merton on 15 January, 2014, 14:34
I had an astronomer once say to me that if I were the Sun here in Ho Chi Minh City, and he were the nearest system (the Alpha-Beta-Proxima three star system), he might be wandering about London.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Sir Smoke aLot on 15 January, 2014, 14:57
Gravity 'plays' a big role in such great colision scenarios. Every object inside galaxies would follow some imaginary gravity influence lines and dance in harmony with other objects. Thats what i read about future Milky way and Andromeda 'colision'. Black holes which are in centres of galaxies would perform long, almost ethernal dance ( millions of years long untill finally combine in most amazing way ) And colision simulation Andromeda and the Milky Way There are many more ofc its just amazing to watch this videos and think about the size of objects, not to mention the are... [More]
Comment icon #8 Posted by Xynoplas on 15 January, 2014, 21:34
That depends on the scale that you assume of course.
Comment icon #9 Posted by mesuma on 16 January, 2014, 0:48
But still random things can happen and would they see it coming?
Comment icon #10 Posted by wuhugm on 16 January, 2014, 2:53
was what I thought as well even a near miss will bring doom to any planetary bodies and kills off potential lifeforms
Comment icon #11 Posted by Peter B on 16 January, 2014, 13:37
Oh yes. If such a star was to come fanging towards our Solar System, we'd certainly see it, and from a lo-o-ong way away. For one thing, it's a star, and stars are bright. For another, it's motion would be measurable (not across the sky but in terms of red shift). There's no reason that a fast-travelling star would be invisible just because it's moving quickly. But it's not as though we'd have no warning: as Taun pointed out, at that speed it would take 700 years to travel 1 light year; the nearest star to our Sun is about 4.5 light years away.

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