Stars That Race Through Space at Nearly the Speed of Light

Avi Loeb: Most people probably know that the universe is full of elementary particles — but not everyone knows that it is also full of extremely fast stars moving freely through space like barracuda through the ocean. These stars are ejected by gravitational slingshots located at the focal point of galaxy mergers — where a pair of supermassive black holes coalesce while kicking stars out of the host galaxy, like a batter hitting a series of home runs out of the park. As the black hole pair tightens, its orbital speed rises, providing an even more powerful swing. Eventually this process launches some stars up to the speed of light in accordance with Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity, making them what astrophysicists call  “relativistic.

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