Much Faster than a Speeding Bullet, Planets and Stars Escape the Milky Way

By | April 10, 2012

Much Faster than a Speeding Bullet Planets and Stars Escape the Milky Way

Idan Ginsburg, a graduate student in Dartmouth’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, studies some of the fastest moving objects in the cosmos. When stars and their orbiting plants wander too close to the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, their encounter with the black hole’s gravitational force can either capture them or eject them from the galaxy, like a slingshot, at millions of miles per hour.

Although their origin remains a mystery and although they are invisible, black holes found at galaxy centers make their presence known through the effects they have on their celestial surroundings. The Milky Way’s black hole, a monster with a mass four million times that of the Sun, feeds on some of its neighbors and thrusts others out into the intergalactic void.

It’s the expelled objects that “become hypervelocity planets and stars,” say Ginsburg. “What we learn from these high-speed travelers has significance for our understanding of planetary formation and evolution near the central black hole.”

Ginsburg, along with his doctoral adviser Professor Gary Wegner, and Harvard Professor Abraham Loeb are publishing a paper in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. It describes how the team constructed computer simulations of these hypervelocity bodies as a means to understanding the dynamics involved. “The paper is a ‘call to arms’ for other astronomers to join the search,” Ginsburg announces. …

via Much Faster than a Speeding Bullet, Planets and Stars Escape the Milky Way  | Dartmouth Now.

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