Interstellar Projectiles Zoom around Us at Blistering Speeds


Lee, what are you doing? You know Mike, many people think that stars and planets move through the universe rather like these bubbles from the gun very gently and sedately but they’re wrong. They are wrong. imagine my hand is the Sun and these are planets — one of them’s the Earth. The Earth actually moves around the Sun at a blistering 66,000 miles per hour. Wow! What about the Sun? What about the Sun. Well, it moves around the core of the Milky Way galaxy at about a half a million miles per hour. That’s pretty fast! A lot faster than bubbles. A lot faster than bubbles, but it’s not the fastest thing that we know about. There are other stars individual stars that go at a million miles an hour or more. How do you get them to go that fast though? Well first you start with a black hole — a supermassive black hole. Can you bring in a binary star for me please? As a matter of fact I can. So when a binary star approaches a black hole and gets too close, what can happen is that. *POP* Oh! Woosh! One of the stars gets swallowed and the other goes flying out of the galaxy at a million miles an hour, maybe more than that. So that’s as fast as we can go right? That’s as fast as we see things going in the universe — big macro scale objects. It is not! This black hole, you would imagine, it weighs a billion times as much as a star and you would think it couldn’t move fast at all, but you’d be wrong! We have discovered a least one black hole that seems to be exiting its galaxy at four or five million miles per hour. And how the heck is that going to happen though? How are we going to explain that? Well this black hole might have been the product of a merger between two slightly smaller black holes and when they merge together they emit a burst of gravitational waves and the kick from those gravitational waves actually launched this black hole out into space at that insane speed. So less bubbles more one of these. *BANG* Yeah, yeah more like that. Wow! but that’s not all if it happened once in the history of the universe, it probably happened thousands of times or millions of times. And what that means is that there are almost certainly giant black holes weighing billions of times as much as a star flying around the universe right at this moment and we can’t even see them. In which case it’s really a lot more like this isn’t it?. *BANG* x6 We have to watch out for the black holes. Yeah. For Scientific American, I’m Mike Lemonick. And I’m Lee Billings. Please subscribe to our YouTube channel. So in that case, it’s more like…*BANG* Woo, two came out! That’s crazy! Okay, okay we get it.

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