Cosmic ‘Spitballs’ Released From Milky Way’s Black Hole (Synopsis) [Begins With A Bang]

“Other galaxies like Andromeda are shooting these ‘spitballs’ at us all the time.” -James Guillochon, coauthor on the new study

Imagine you’re a star passing also close to a black hole. What’s going to come about to you? Yes, you will be tidally disrupted and sooner or later torn apart. Some of the matter will be swallowed, some will wind up in an accretion disk, and some will be accelerated and ejected entirely. But very surprisingly, the ejected matter does not just come out in the kind of hot gas, but it condenses into big numbers of rapidly-moving planets.

An artist's illustration of large, rapid masses emerging from a point origin in space. Public domain image by Pixabay user Yuri_B.

An artist’s illustration of large, fast masses emerging from a point origin in space. Public domain image by Pixabay user Yuri_B.

This population should make up around one out of every single 1000 rogue planets, but must be uniquely identifiable. The vast majority will move at amazing speeds of about ten,000 km/s, be around the mass of Jupiter but will be made out of shredded star material, rather than standard planetary material. As the next generation of infrared telescopes come online, these ‘cosmic spitballs’ should be one particular of the most exciting novel discoveries of all.

Rogue planets may not just form from nebulae, but from shredded stars encountering black holes. Image credit: Christine Pulliam / David Aguilar / CfA.

Rogue planets could not just kind from nebulae, but from shredded stars encountering black holes. Image credit: Christine Pulliam / David Aguilar / CfA.

Come get the whole story on cosmic spitballs, fresh from the AAS meeting!

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