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The fastest unbound star in our Galaxy ejected by a thermonuclear supernova

Science  06 Mar 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6226, pp. 1126-1128
DOI: 10.1126/science.1259063

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Stars that blow up and bug out

When stars move at speeds that will launch them out of our Galaxy, eyes often turn to our core supermassive black hole as the slingshot responsible. For at least one hypervelocity star, however, the galactic center remains innocent. Geier et al. traced back the trajectory of a compact helium star, US 708, and deduced a different origin in a binary. In this scenario, US 708 acted as the mass donor in a type Ia supernova pair, which spun US708 to the point of ejection. By knowing this star's exotic past, we learn both about its specific history and about the nature of all type Ia supernovae.

Science, this issue p. 1126

Abstract

Hypervelocity stars (HVSs) travel with velocities so high that they exceed the escape velocity of the Galaxy. Several acceleration mechanisms have been discussed. Only one HVS (US 708, HVS 2) is a compact helium star. Here we present a spectroscopic and kinematic analysis of US 708. Traveling with a velocity of ~1200 kilometers per second, it is the fastest unbound star in our Galaxy. In reconstructing its trajectory, the Galactic center becomes very unlikely as an origin, which is hardly consistent with the most favored ejection mechanism for the other HVSs. Furthermore, we detected that US 708 is a fast rotator. According to our binary evolution model, it was spun-up by tidal interaction in a close binary and is likely to be the ejected donor remnant of a thermonuclear supernova.

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