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Friday 30 June 2017

The Universe on 101 words: What's the fastest star?

Above: A hypervelocity star creates a huge bow wave of dust and gas as it ploughs through the Orion nebula.
What phrase describes the night sky? Not 'full of speed demons', unless you've ingested something hallucinogenic. But stars only appear unmoving because they're incredibly distant - most are actually travelling at hundreds of kilometres a second. And some,  called hypervelocity stars, are travelling at thousands.

The record holder for straight line speed? The star US 708, at 1200 kilometres per second.

What could throw a whole star so hard? 

Some were blasted up to speed by supernova. Others got accelerated by the gigantic black hole in centre of our galaxy

And some we can't explain - even after years studying them...

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Above: The Milky Way. Full of the stellar equivalent of angry teenage boy racers. Comforting thought,hey?

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