Rogue Stars - Credit: Andrea Thompson & Live Science
A young star speeding away from the Milky Way is in fact an alien visitor, astronomers have confirmed. The wayward object is one of several rogues that are giving astronomers a glimpse into the volatile nature of our galaxy and others.
Astronomers have found about 10 stars hurtling away from our galaxy, at speeds that exceed its gravitational grasp. While most stars rush through space at speeds on the order of hundreds of kilometers per second, these aptly-named "hypervelocity stars" are rocketing away at least 10 times as fast.
Most of these speedy stars are thought to be exiles from the center of our galaxy, flung out into intergalactic space by the powerful forces of the massive black hole at the center of our galaxy. Their violent creation is giving astronomers insight into the almost impenetrable world at the center of the Milky Way, the mysteries of our nearby galactic neighbours, and the nature of intergalactic space.
Hypervelocity stars were first theorized to exist in 1988. The theory was that binary star systems at the galaxy's center would occasionally wander too close to the massive black hole looming there, which would disrupt their orbital dance.
While one of the pair was captured by the black hole, the other would be sent rocketing off at an incredible speed.
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But there's no need to worry about a stellar roadrunner knocking into Earth, or any other planet or star. There's a lot of "empty space" in the solar system, so these speeding stars will likely have a clear path out of the neighbourhood.
Large Mover from The Magellanic Cloud @ Centauri Dreams.