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100 of the Fastest Runaway Stars Spotted In the Milky Way

The fastest stars in the Milky are moving about at more than 80,000 km/h. Scientists have recently spotted around a hundred of them that were hitherto undocumented. The paper is published in The Astrophysical Journal.

Photo credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA.

Photo credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA.

The universe is always buzzing with activities involving heavenly bodies proceeding to some destination at tremendous speeds. Our Milky Way is no exception when it comes to such fast-moving objects. In fact, astronomers have recently found about 100 of the fastest stars in the galaxy – they are moving at speeds (80,000 km/h) greater than that of sound, and are massive and hot, as pointed out by physicist and astronomer Chip Kobulnicky from the University of Wyoming.

The stars leave behind a trail of arc-shaped shockwaves called bow shocks thanks to which the researchers were able to detect them through NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope used in conjunction with the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and the Wyoming Infrared Observatory (WIRO). The bow shocks are generated by the accumulation of material at the front end of the speedy stars.

According to the astronomers, the ‘runaway stars’ find their amazing momentum from encounters with other heavenly bodies. In a presentation of the paper at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society, William Chick explained that the stars might obtain the energy to do so following the explosion of their companion star into a supernova. Or, others can “get kicked out” of packed clusters of stars. The speed of the stars picks up thanks to the gravitational boost.

Kobulnicky claims that the study of these bow shocks will help understand the fate and evolution of giant stars.


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