Now by analyzing its velocity, light intensity, and for the first time its tell-tale elemental composition, Carnegie astronomers Alceste Bonanos and Mercedes López-Morales, and collaborators Ian Hunter and Robert Ryans from Queen’s University Belfast have determined that it came from our neighboring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC).
The result suggests that it was ejected from that galaxy by a yet-to-be-observed massive black hole. The research will be published in an upcoming issue of the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The star, dubbed HE 0437-5439, is an early-type star and one of ten so-called hypervelocity stars so far found speeding away from the Milky Way. “But this one is different from the other nine,” commented López-Morales. “Their type, speed, and age make them consistent with having been ejected from the center of our galaxy, where we know there is a super-massive black hole. This star, discovered in 2005*, initially appeared to have an elemental makeup like our Sun’s, suggesting that it, too, came from the center of our galaxy. But that didn’t make sense because it would have taken 100 million years to get to its location, and HE 0437-5439 is only 35 million years old.”
To explain the enigma, or “paradox of youth,” the discoverers proposed that HE 0437-5439 was either a so-called blue straggler—a relatively young, massive star resulting from the merger of two low-mass stars from the Milky Way, or it originated from the Large Magellanic Cloud.
“We were intrigued by the conundrum and decided to take up the challenge to solve this,” stated Bonanos. “Stars in the LMC are known to have lower elemental abundances than most stars in our galaxy, so we could determine if its chemistry was more like that galaxy’s or our own.”
The team confirmed results of the previous study concerning the mass, age, and speed of the star. It is about nine times the mass of our Sun, about 35 million years old, and it is zooming away from the Milky Way and Large Magellanic Cloud into intergalactic space at 1.6 million miles per hour (2.6 million km/hour).
Although the previous study was able to roughly estimate the star’s elemental composition, the measurements were not detailed enough to determine if the elements match stars in our galaxy, or are characteristic of stars from the Large Magellanic Cloud. These astronomers were able to measure the relative abundances of certain elements for the first time in any hypervelocity star. The relative abundance of key elements tells them where a star originated.
“We’ve ruled out that the star came from the Milky Way,” explained Bonanos. “The concentration of elements in Large Magellanic Cloud stars are about half those in our Sun. Like evidence from a crime scene, the fingerprints point to an origin in the Large Magellanic Cloud.”
Based on the speed of the star’s rotation measured by the discoverers, and confirmed by this team, the astronomers believe that the star was originally part of a binary system. The binary could have passed close to a black hole 1,000 the mass of the Sun**. As one star was pulled into the black hole, the other was whipped into frenzy and flung out of the galaxy.
“This is the first observational clue that a massive black hole exists somewhere in the LMC. We look forward to finding out where this black hole might be,” concluded Bonanos.
Alcestes Bonanos | EurekAlert!
Breaking the optical bandwidth record of stable pulsed lasers
24.01.2017 | Institut national de la recherche scientifique - INRS
European XFEL prepares for user operation: Researchers can hand in first proposals for experiments
24.01.2017 | European XFEL GmbH
A Swedish-German team of researchers has cleared up a key process for the artificial production of silk. With the help of the intense X-rays from DESY's...
For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.
According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.01.2017 | Life Sciences
24.01.2017 | Health and Medicine