Astronomers estimate the Milky Way galaxy could be filled with up to 100 million black holes.
The artist impression of the ejection mechanism by the supermassive black hole. Credit: James Josephides (Swinburne Astronomy Productions)
“My favorite part of this discovery is thinking about where this star came from and where it’s going,” said Ji. “It was born in one of the craziest places in the universe, near a supermassive black hole with lots of other nearby star friends; but it’s going to leave our galaxy and die all alone, out in the middle of nowhere. Quite a fall from grace.”
Five million years ago, when humanity’s ancestors were just learning to walk upright, a star was ejected from Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, at a staggering 3.7 million mph. This month, a group of researchers spotted the superfast star traveling relatively close to Earth.
The word ‘astronomy’ means the direct observations of extra-terrestrial objects. This definition is relevant to photons, neutrinos, and gravitational waves, i.e. massless, neutral and stable particles. But for cosmic ray electrons, protons, and nuclei, the term ‘astronomy’ is used with a certain reservation. Because of the deflections of electrically charged particles in the chaotic interstellar and intergalactic magnetic fields, the information about their original directions pointing to the sites of their production is lost. Instead, on the Earth, we detect an (almost) isotropic flux of cosmic rays contributed by a huge number of galactic and extragalactic sources.
Considerable data and analysis support the detection of one or more supernovae (SNe) at a distance of about 50 pc, ∼2.6 million years ago. This is possibly related to the extinction event around that time and is a member of a series of explosions that formed the Local Bubble in the interstellar medium. We build on previous work, and propagate the muon flux from SN-initiated cosmic rays from the surface to the depths of the ocean. We find that the radiation dose from the muons will exceed the total present surface dose from all sources at depths up to 1 km and will persist for at least the lifetime of marine megafauna. It is reasonable to hypothesize that this increase in radiation load may have contributed to a newly documented marine megafaunal extinction at that time.
The high energy radiation is important because it is absorbed high in the atmosphere of a planet, causing the gas to be heated. For the Earth, the gas is heated to temperatures of more than 1000 degrees Celsius in the upper region known as the thermosphere. This is the region in which spacecraft such as satellites and the International Space Station fly. When orbiting young stars with high activity levels, the thermospheres of planets are heated to much higher temperatures which, in extreme cases, can cause the gas to flow away from the planet.
With 3,000 times more lithium than a normal star, it was found in the direction of Ophiuchus, on the north side of the galactic disk, at a distance of 4,500 light years from Earth.