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Milky Way Black Hole Spits Out Hypervelocity Star

Credit: James Josephides/Swinburne Astronomy Productions

Now that’s what I call a cosmic loogie.

At the very center of our galaxy, the Milky Way, there exists a supermassive black hole we know as Sagittarius A*. Black holes, as I’m sure we all know, are typically known for sucking stuff up into their incredibly dense gravity. But on occasion, for one reason or another, they can also spit things back out. This is what happened to the star S5-HSV1, which is now in for the ride of its life.

Astronomers recently spotted S5-HSV1 hurtling through the Milky Way at a mind-blowing 2.3 million MPH. As of Wednesday, S5-HSV1 was blowing past the constellation of Grus at around 29,000 light years. According to Oxford astronomer Dr. Douglas Boubert, at the rate S5-HSV1 is going, it’ll eventually shoot right out of the Milky Way’s gravity altogether, and we’ll more than likely never see it again.

So how the heck did this happen? S5-HSV1, as well as an unnamed companion star, were first discovered back in 2005. They existed in a free-floating binary system, but happened to float a little too close to Sagittarius A*’s front lawn, and ended up getting pulled in. However, since both were grabbed at the same time, an odd sort of gravitational kerfuffle occurred; the companion star was pulled into Sagittarius A* as usual, but S5-HSV1 burst out at high speed like popping bubble wrap.

Astronomers are quite excited by this event. It’s been theorized for a long time that black holes could launch objects under the right circumstances, but such a phenomenon has never actually been observed. Now they’ve got concrete proof, and hope to learn as much as they can about S5-HSV1 before it leaves our line of sight forever.