Astronomers have spotted a high-velocity star traveling at a blistering six million kilometers per hour (3,728,227 miles per hour) that the supermassive black hole at the heart at the Milky Way ejected five million years ago.
The researchers saw the star, known as S5-HVS1 and located in the constellation of Grus the Crane, was moving 10 times faster than most stars in the Milky Way.
Astronomers have wondered about high-velocity stars since their discovery only two decades ago. S5-HVS1 is unprecedented due to its high speed and close passage to the Earth, "only" 29,000 light-years away. With this information, astronomers could track its journey back into the center of the Milky Way, where a four-million-solar-mass black hole, known as Sagittarius A*, lurks.
Black holes can eject superfast stars via the Hills Mechanism, which astronomer Jack Hills proposed thirty years ago. Originally, S5-HSV1 lived with a companion in a binary system, but they strayed too close to Sagittarius A*. In the gravitational tussle, the black hole captured the companion star, while it threw out S5-HVS1 at extremely high speed.
Researchers discovered S5-HVS1 with the 3.9-meter Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) near Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia, coupled with superb observations from the European Space Agency's Gaia satellite, which allowed the astronomers to reveal the full speed of the star and its journey from the center of the Milky Way.
The results appear in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
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