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News Release Archive:

News Release 191 of 953

July 22, 2010 09:00 AM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2010-19

Hyperfast Star Was Booted from Milky Way

July 22, 2010: A hundred million years ago, a triple-star system was traveling through the bustling center of our Milky Way galaxy when it made a life-changing misstep. The trio wandered too close to the galaxy's giant black hole, which captured one of the stars and hurled the other two out of the Milky Way. Adding to the stellar game of musical chairs, the two outbound stars merged to form a super-hot, blue star.

This story may seem like science fiction, but astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope say it is the most likely scenario for a so-called hypervelocity star, known as HE 0437-5439, one of the fastest ever detected. It is blazing across space at a speed of 1.6 million miles (2.5 million kilometers) an hour, three times faster than our Sun's orbital velocity in the Milky Way. Hubble observations confirm that the stellar speedster hails from our galaxy's core.

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Illustration Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

Science Credit: NASA, ESA, O. Gnedin (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor), and W. Brown (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Mass.)