A fast-moving unbound star discovered by astronomers at Queen’s University Belfast has broken the galactic speed record.
The unbound star, named US708, is travelling at 1,200 kilometres per second – the fastest speed ever recorded for such an object in our galaxy – meaning it is not held back by gravity and will eventually leave the Milky Way.
US708 is believed to have once been part of a double-star solar system, which also included a massive white dwarf star. The white dwarf is thought to have turned into a ‘thermonuclear supernovae’ and exploded, kicking US708 and sending it hurtling across space.
The discovery of US708 sheds light on the mysterious double-star systems that give rise to thermonuclear explosions. Thermonuclear, or ‘type Ia’, supernovae have long been used to calculate the distances to faraway galaxies – a measurement which helps to determine how the universe is changing and expanding.
Dr Rubina Kotak and Ken Smith, from the Astrophysics Centre at Queen’s University said: “It is very exciting to have contributed to this important discovery which is a great example of Queen’s commitment to achieving excellence and advancing knowledge for the benefit of society. It brings us a step closer to solving the type Ia puzzle.”
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