‘If you lived on one, you’d be in for a wild ride’: Our Milky Way galaxy hurls planets out into space at 30 million miles per hour

23 Mar

A ‘runaway planet’ hurled into space from our galaxy: Eventually, such worlds will escape the Milky Way and travel through the lonely intergalactic void. A glowing volcano on the planet¿s surface hints at active plate tectonics that may keep the planet warm

‘Other than subatomic particles, I don’t know of anything leaving our galaxy as fast as these runaway planets,’ added lead author Idan Ginsburg of Dartmouth College.

The planets are ‘fired’ off into space when a double-star system wanders too close to the supermassive black hole at the galactic center.

Scientists have already seen a star being hurled out of our galaxy at 1.5 million miles per hour – and wondered what might happen if planets were attached.


The researchers simulated what would happen to each star had a planet or two orbiting nearby.

In the simulation, gravitational forces rip the stars from each other, sending one away at high speed while the other is captured into orbit around the black hole.

They found that the star ejected outward could carry its planets along for the ride – and that the other star’s planets could be ‘slingshotted’ outwards alone.


The galactic centre of our Milky Way galaxy: Scientists found that when twin-star systems stray too close to the supermassive black hole at the heart of our galaxy, planets are ‘fired’ off into space

The second star, as it’s captured by the black hole, could have its planets torn away and flung into the icy blackness of interstellar space at tremendous speeds.

A typical hypervelocity planet would slingshot outward at 7 to 10 million miles per hour. However, a small fraction of them could gain much higher speeds under ideal conditions.


Current instruments can’t detect a lone hypervelocity planet since they are dim, distant, and very rare. However, astronomers could spot a planet orbiting a hypervelocity star by watching for the star to dim slightly when the planet crosses its face in a transit.

For a hypervelocity star to carry a planet with it, that planet would have to be in a tight orbit.

Therefore, the chances of seeing a transit would be relatively high, around 50 percent.

‘With one-in-two odds of seeing a transit, if a hypervelocity star had a planet, it makes a lot of sense to watch for them,’ said Ginsburg.
Eventually, such worlds will escape the Milky Way and travel through the intergalactic void.

‘Travel agencies advertising journeys on hypervelocity planets might appeal to particularly adventurous individuals,’ added


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