Harvard Researchers Discover Hypervelocity Planets

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Although there was a brief scare last year when researchers thought that neutrinos had broken the speed of light, the laws of physics haven't thrown our conceptions of speed many curveballs in the past year. Until a few days ago, that is. Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced that there might be planets which tear across the universe at many millions of miles per hour. In a paper to be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, researchers Idan Ginsburg, Avi Loeb, and Gary Wegner confirm the possibility of these "hypervelocity planets."

Many of these planets move at around 1.5 million miles per hour, but some can get up to a whopping 30 million miles per hour, making them some of the fastest known objects in the universe. They are created when a supermassive black hole, such as the one at the center of our galaxy, shreds apart two stars and sends one hurtling off into the nether.

These high velocity stars have been known about for some time, but the idea posited by Ginsburg, Loeb, and Wegner is that these stars may have planets orbiting around them which either travel with them through space or are ripped off and hurtled at amazing speeds, alone.

According to Abraham "Avi" Loeb, the chair of the Astronomy Department at Harvard, this discovery represents exciting conclusions for the future of the universe.

"Because the universe is expanding at an ever increasing rate, eventually all light sources outside of the Milky Way will move away from us at a rate faster than the speed of light, leaving us in darkness," said Loeb. "In the distant future, the only sign of a universe outside of the Milky Way will be high velocity stars and their hypervelocity planets."

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