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Warehouse G

High Speed Anomalies

Runaway Stars Violate All The Rules Of The Universe

By James Donahue

We have devoted a lot of space on this site explaining the amazing way the universe is assembled, with (nearly) everything in circular motion around a nucleus. We see this beautiful pattern in minute detail as we look through high powered microscopes and examine the atom, and find it again when looking through high powered telescopes to examine the billions of solar systems and galaxies beyond.

The universe appears to be a very orderly place. And yet it is anything but orderly. There are many mysteries in space that boggle the minds of science and astronomy. These include such things as dark matter, black holes, gravity and shooting stars.

Every child thinks they know about shooting stars. They are meteorites that burst into flame as they enter the earth’s atmosphere, thus looking like a falling star as they flash through the night sky. But astronomers have discovered that there are such things as “shooting suns,” or runaway stars that defy all the rules. They are seen racing out of orbit of either galaxy or solar system, often flying at such extraordinary speeds they leave the galaxy and enter the empty reaches of dark space.

Such suns are called hypervelocity stars because of the extreme speed at which they travel.

The first of its kind was discovered in 2005 by Warren Brown, astronomer with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge, Mass. The star was located on the outer edge of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, and was traveling at an estimated 1.6 million miles per hour.

Brown said the discovery was so amazing and unexpected he found it hard to believe at first. “No star in the galaxy has a speed like that,” he said. After finding one hypervelocity star, Brown began looking for others. And he found them. To date Brown and the other astronomers as the observatory have identified over 16 such stars and have good reason to believe there may be thousands.

How can such stars exist, and what would cause they to defy the gravitational pull of the other stars and planets in a galaxy like the Milky Way and fling themselves wildly into deep space?

After confirming that hypervelocity stars exist, the astronomers of course have had to grope for some kind of explanation. Thus was born the black hole theory. Actually, the theory by physicist Jack Hills existed before the existence of hypervelocity stars was known. He proposed that if two binary stars got too close to a large black hole, the hole might capture one of the stars and fling the other one out into space.

Of course Hills’ theory is a lot of wild speculation all based on what scientists think a black hole is. To date, black holes are about as mysterious a non-visible object as humans have ever slammed into. Their existence can be proven by the absence of light and the gravitational activity created by certain areas of space, thus implying something very black and very sinister is operating there. The general believe is that a black hole is negative space . . . a virtual hole that sucks stars, planets and anything that comes near it into its void.

Hills’ idea that the action of sucking one of two binary stars might have the effect of detaching the second star and whirling it wildly off into space helps explain the hypervelocity stars that seem to be flying like an out-of-control freight train off its prescribed track and into the gorge.

Astronomers also discovered not too long ago that a super sized black hole, more massive than 3 million suns, lurks in the heart of our galaxy. Some say they believe it is the gravitational force of this giant black hole that holds the entire galaxy together. And now they are suggesting that it may be the force that is hurling hypervelocity stars off like balls hit right out of the ball park.

By measuring the speed of the stars that are known, and calculating the distance they have traveled from the core of the galaxy, Brown says they are estimating that hypervelocity stars are very rare. “We think they come out every 10 million years or so,” he said.

Of course the black hole ejection theory is just that . . . a theory. And not all astronomers are buying it. Julio Navarro, astronomer at the University of Victoria, Canada, proposes that these crazy stars may have been part of a dwarf galaxy that once collided with the Milky Way.

In a collision of stars and planets all moving in conflict with each other, strange things are bound to happen. Navarro says some stars could have been ejected outward while others were pushed into the center where they were gobbled up by the big bad black hole hiding there.

There is a third possibility that has been tossed around among scientists. This is the stars are set in motion by the force of a supernova explosion in a multiple star system.

While we can’t find a clear explanation for them, we have established that hypervelocity stars exist, and there may be several thousand of them flying off through dark space at fantastic speeds. There is clearly a definition among astronomers that stars are suns. Thus the question that makes its way out of this writer’s calculating brain at this point is . . . what if some of these suns are solar systems like ours? What would it be like if there were habitable planets spinning around suns moving wildly through space at 1.6 million miles an hour?

If we stick to the binary “slingshot” theory, there would be no problem, scientists suggest. Two suns operating close together would tend to have planets circling on a broad orbit. Once the system got close to the black hole, the planets would be ripped away from the suns and lost to interstellar space.

A supernova blast, of course, would also eliminate any possible life forms on planets existing within that neighborhood.

Navarro’s theory, however, might give us something uniquely different to contemplate. Imagine what it would be like if our own solar system suddenly got catapulted off into the black regions of cold interstellar nothingness. Would it affect the way our planets move around the sun? Would the high speed movement impact weather and tide patterns?

For sure it would be odd to stare off into deep space and see nothing but blackness, except when the planets are visible.