We know that stars are born from violence and chaos, and supernova deaths can also be just as extreme. We also know that these types of explosions can push them on a fast-paced trajectory through space, which is precisely what’s happening right now with a star fragment.
Scientists from Boston University are studying the fragment, and have noted that it is speeding its way out of the Milky Way galaxy at speeds reaching 2 million miles per hour. The fragment came from a supernova, most likely a white dwarf star, named LP 40-365, that was consuming its partner star in a binary system. The two stars were likely spinning extremely quickly (and extremely close to each other) and, as a result, both were propelled outward once LP 40-365 exploded.
What’s remarkable here isn’t just the remnant’s fast speeds, which are fairly rare; it is also spinning at an incredibly slow rate for this type of shard. It’s taking 8.9 hours to complete a full rotation.
The star fragment’s composition will also provide scientists with valuable insights. Intact stars have a primary composition of gases, like hydrogen and helium. This fragment, however, survived a partial detonation and is mostly composed of metal. JJ Hermes, Boston University College of Arts & Sciences assistant professor of astronomy, said, “what we’re seeing are the by-products of violent nuclear reactions that happen when a star blows itself up.”
The shrapnel gives scientists a rare opportunity to study a star chunk that survived a stellar explosion. It’ll also help them gain a better understanding of other stars that have had a similar catastrophic event.