There's fast, and then there's VFTS 102 fast.
The dry scientific name denotes the fastest spinning star known to date.
How fast is the fastest?
VFTS 102 rotates more than 300 times faster than the Sun, astronomers found using the Very Large Telescope from the European Southern Observatory.
The star spins at more than two million kilometers per hour, a nearly impossible speed to comprehend. The 2 million kilometer distance is the equivalent of five times from the Earth to the moon, according to NASA data.
Plus, VFTS 102 acts like a runaway superstar, preferring to go solo in the universe.
We were very surprised to find such a massive star on its own, and not in a rich star cluster, Joachim Bestenlehner, lead author of the study and student at Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland, said in a statement. Its origin is mysterious.
The journal Astrophysical Journal Letters published the study on Nov. 22.
The survey identified over 800 massive stars, which included VFTS 102.
The remarkable rotation speed and the unusual motion compared to the surrounding stars led us to wonder if this star had had an unusual early life. We were suspicious, Philip Dufton, the lead author and astronomer at Queen's University, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK, said in a statement.
The astronomers put one hypothesis to try and explain the star's incredible speed. VFTS 102 could have started as two stars with gas from one star egging the other on to faster and faster speeds. The gas-giving companion would have exploded into a supernova and left the speedy star left in a cloud of dust, which observers found.
This is a compelling story because it explains each of the unusual features that we've seen, Dufton said in a statement. This star is certainly showing us unexpected sides of the short, but dramatic lives of the heaviest stars.