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Chinese Telescope Detects Nearest Hypervelocity Star

May 12, 2014

A star traveling at the break-neck speed of 1.4 million miles per hour has been discovered by a team of scientists who analyzed data collected by the Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST) in China.

Named LAMOST-HVS1, the hypervelocity star is located 62,000 light-years from the galactic core of the Milky Way and 42,400 light-years away from Earth, which makes it the nearest celestial body of that kind. It travels through space at a speed of 1.4 million miles per hour relative to the Earth and 1.1 million miles per hour relative to the center of our galaxy - that's more than three times faster compared to most stars.

It also has an apparent magnitude (its brightness as observed from Earth) of 13, which makes LAMOST-HVS1 the second brightest star of that kind ever discovered. Zheng Zheng of the University of Utah, leading the team of scientists that discovered the star, told Xinhua that LAMOST-HVS1 is nine times larger than our Sun, four times hotter and, if viewed from the same distance, would be 3,400 times brighter.

This hypervelocity star, however, is only 32 million years old, which is relatively young by star standards - the Sun, for example, is 4.6 billion years old. Stars like LAMOST-HVS1 are thought to originate from the galaxy's core, where the supermassive black hole captures one star from a binary system and hurls the other one away from the center at great speed. Because of their speed, hypervelocity stars are able to escape the Milky Way's gravitational grasp and head freely into the dark matter surrounding the galaxy.

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