Rogue planets could be hurtling through space at speeds approaching 30-million-miles-per-hour--nearly 5 percent the speed of light--launched in slingshot fashion by the extreme gravitational pull of the supermassive black hole believed to be at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, scientists have calculated.
These warp-speed planets would be some of the fastest objects in our galaxy. If you lived on one of them, you'd be in for a wild ride from the center of the galaxy to the universe at large, said astrophysicist Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the U.K. Press Association reported.
Loeb is one of the co-authors of the study that provides mathematical evidence that predicts the existence of these hyper-velocity planets. The paper is set for publication in the next issue of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Christian Science Monitor reported.
The hypothetical phenomenon occurs when an orbiting planet's star is sucked into Milky Way's supermassive black hole and the planet is catapulted away before entering the black hole's event horizon. Another scenario involves a dual star system, in which one star is swallowed up by the black hole and its twin is ejected away, carrying with it any orbiting planets.
Astronomers have already observed stars careening through the galaxy at high velocities as a result of the dual star scenario. The first such star was observed seven years go leaving the Milky Way at a speed of 1.5 million miles per hour, UKPA reported.
It is not likely that scientists will be able to detect a rogue hyper-velocity planet using current technology, but it would be possible to observe a planet orbiting a hyper-velocity star.
Other than subatomic particles, I don't know of anything leaving our galaxy as fast as these runaway planets, said Idan Ginsburg at the Department of Astronomy and Physics at Dartmouth College, UKPA reported.