Something is hitting stars in our Milky Way galaxy with such force that they are reaching the million-plus mile-per-hour velocity needed to break free of the galaxy.
Astrophysicists have observed 18 stars that were kicked out of the galaxy before, but those stars were from the center of the galaxy and they were affected by the supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s core. This new set of 20 stars are not from the center, and scientists don’t know what could have propelled them to reach such a speed.
“These new hypervelocity stars are very different from the ones that have been discovered previously,” said lead author of the study Vanderbilt University graduate student Lauren Palladino, according to the university news.
The black hole that acted on the first set of stars is estimated to have a mass equivalent to four million suns, which gives it such a powerful force. What, besides this black hole, could have such power?
“The big question is: what boosted these stars up to such extreme velocities? We are working on that now,” said Kelly Holley-Bockelmann, assistant professor of astronomy at Vanderbilt. Palladino was working under Holley-Bockelmann’s supervision.
The discovery was published in the Astrophysical Journal this month, and it was discussed last week at the annual American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, D.C.
*Image of Milky Way via Shutterstock