The hot, blue star HE 0437-5439 has been tossed out of the center of our Milky Way galaxy with enough speed to escape the galaxy's gravitational clutches. The stellar outcast is rocketing through the Milky Way's distant outskirts at 1.6 million miles an hour, high above the galaxy's disk, about 200,000 light-years from the center. The star is destined to roam intergalactic space.
A hundred million years ago, a triple-star system was traveling through the bustling center of our Milky Way galaxy when it made a life-changing misstep. The trio wandered too close to the galaxy's giant black hole, which captured one of the stars and hurled the other two out of the Milky Way. Adding to the stellar game of musical chairs, the two outbound stars merged to form a super- hot, blue star.
This story may seem like science fiction, but astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope say it is the most likely scenario for a so-called hypervelocity star, known as HE 0437-5439, one of the fastest ever detected. It is blazing across space at a speed of 1.6 million miles hour, three times faster than our Sun's orbital velocity in the Milky Way. Hubble observations confirm that the stellar speedster hails from the Milky Way's core, settling some confusion over where it originally called home.