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(Reuters) - Astronomers have found a star hurtling through the galaxy faster than any other, the result of being blasted away by the explosion of a massive partner star, researchers said on Thursday.The star, known as US 708, is traveling at about 746 miles (1,200 km) per second, fast enough to actually leave the Milky Way galaxy in about 25 million years, said astronomer Stephan Geier with Germany-based European Southern Observatory, which operates three telescopes in Chile.
"At that speed you could travel from Earth to the moon in five minutes," noted University of Hawaii astronomer Eugene Magnier.
US 708 is not the first star astronomers have found that is moving fast enough to escape the galaxy, but it is the only one so far that appears to have been slingshot in a supernova explosion.
The 20 other stars discovered so far that are heading out of the galaxy likely got their impetus from coming too close to the supermassive black hole that lives at the center of the Milky Way, scientists report in an article in this week’s edition of the journal Science.
Before it was sent streaming across the galaxy, US 708 was once a cool giant star, but it was stripped of nearly all of its hydrogen by a closely orbiting partner. Scientists suspect it was this feeding that triggered the partner’s detonation.
If confirmed, these types of ejected stars may provide more insight into how supernova explosions occur. Since the explosions give off a fairly standard amount of radiation, scientists can calculate their distances by measuring how bright or dim they appear and determine how fast the universe is expanding.
The invisible force field seems to be taken from a Star-Trek movie script – it’s invisible, it’s steady, and it doesn’t allow harmful cosmic radiation penetrating into our planet’s atmosphere. Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers say it was first noticed by two NASA spacecrafts orbiting the Van Allen radiation belt on a 7,200 miles (11,000 km) altitude.This new invisible force field protecting Earth does a very good job at blocking highly radioactive electrons populating Earth’s upper atmospheric region. NASA said these “ultrarelativistic” electrons were extremely aggressive and they easily circulate in space at speeds very close to the speed of light. They also fry everything on their way from spacecrafts to communication satellites. NASA launched two probe crafts, the Van Allen probes, for the sole purpose of studying these electrons and improving the safety level of their spacecrafts and crew.NASA says although these electrons are attracted towards Earth by its magnetic field, they cannot get closer than 7,200 miles to it due an invisible shield-like barrier, never detected before. This barrier protects Earth from harmful cosmic radiation and has already done a good job in the past by deflecting several solar blows directed towards Earth. It seems that this mysterious force field operates on low frequency electromagnetism, but its source is still uncertain.In the end, researchers found out that the barrier was probably generated by the plasmaspheric hiss, a phenomenon occurring in the upper parts of the atmosphere. This plasmaspheric hiss deviates from orbit the fast-moving dangerous particles, and sets them on a parallel plan to one of the Earth’s magnetic field lines, forcing them to fall into the atmosphere, collide with neutrally charged particles, and disappear.Mary Hudson, professor of physics, said the new NASA observations made over more than two years through its Van Allen probes confirmed the inner barrier’s existence, and brought invaluable new information to the particle acceleration theory.