An article published in Time discusses the study of hypervelocity stars—a phenomenon that occurs when a star gets too close to the gravitational force of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way—sending the stars and planets flying away at incredibly high rates of speed. New research conducted by Dartmouth astrophysics graduate student Idan Ginsburg and Professor of Physics and Astronomy Gary Wegner points to the potential for the fleeing hypervelocity stars to be accompanied by planets.
While hypervelocity planets may be ejected by themselves, they are too small to be viewed on their own. However, planets that orbit fleeing stars can be observed. The article notes that the Dartmouth researchers—whose work is based on computer modeling—are optimistic that astronomers will be able to observe the planets orbiting hypervelocity stars using telescopes. Ginsburg told Time, “We think it’s worth looking. And if observers don’t find any in this first round, they can wait for more hypervelocity stars to turn up.”
Read the full story, published 3/26/12 by Time.