A Hypervelocity Star Is Hurtling Through The Milky Way At Over 1 Million Miles Per Hour, And It Will Likely Be Able To Escape Our Galaxy

Lemonsoup14 - - illustrative purposes only

A low-mass star is hurtling through the Milky Way at an astonishing speed of over a million miles per hour. That’s approximately 1,500 times faster than the speed of sound!

It was first detected by volunteers who are part of a citizen science project called Backyard Worlds: Planet 9. The goal of the project is to explore the vast amount of data collected over the course of 14 years by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer Mission.

The faint red star is referred to as CWISE J124909+362116.0 (J1249+36). The volunteers noticed it immediately because of its immense velocity of 1.3 million miles per hour. The “hypervelocity” is moving so fast that it will likely be able to escape our galaxy.

A team of researchers from the University of California, San Diego, led by Adam Burgasser, a distinguished professor of astronomy and astrophysics, are aiming to study the star’s infrared spectrum to find out more about its origin and why it’s moving so quickly.

Their investigations showed that the star belongs to the category L subdwarfs, the oldest class of stars in the Milky Way. Due to their low masses and cool temperatures, these stars are pretty rare. The researchers have two theories about why the star is speeding across space.

The first is that the low-mass star once neighbored a star called a white dwarf. White dwarfs come about when smaller stars run out of hydrogen. When that happens, the star starts to die out.

However, white dwarfs can come back to life and renew their energy by feeding on stellar material from a nearby star.

Eventually, the white dwarf will accumulate so much material that its mass will exceed the Chandrasekhar limit of around 1.4 times the mass of the sun.

Then, the star will go supernova, leading to a cosmic explosion that completely destroys the white dwarf. As a result of the blast, the nearby star is launched across space.

Lemonsoup14 – – illustrative purposes only

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