A SHOOTING STAR just doesn’t live up to the drama of its name. It promises a flaming stellar projectile fired from the canon of the gods, but in reality, a shooting star is less colossal spherical inferno and more a speck of cosmic dust that lost a battle with friction. Luckily, the Universe (that great purveyor of baffling wonderment) has some real shooting stars up its sleeve.
Sometimes called rogue, runaway or hypervelocity stars, these are stars that have been liberated from the gravitational bonds of the galaxy and set free to travel the cosmos at almost unimaginable speeds.
The existence of hypervelocity stars was first proposed in 1988 but the first wasn’t discovered until 2005. Since then dozens of these intergalactic speed demons have been found careering around the cosmos like stellar boy racers. Most of the Milky Way’s hundred billion or so stars orbit the galactic centre at a relatively pedestrian 400,000mph or so, but hypervelocity stars can be traveling at two million mph and some might be streaking along at many times that speed.