OIR Research: Hypervelocity Stars

In 2005 Smithsonian astronomers discovered the first "hypervelocity star:" a massive star whose 2 million mph velocity can be explained only by ejection from the Galaxy's massive black hole. This "outcast" star has been thrown out of the Milky Way and is destined to drift in the emptiness of intergalactic space. Smithsonian astronomers are leading the discovery of new hypervelocity stars. Hypervelocity stars tell us about the types of stars orbiting near the central black hole, and the history of stellar interactions with the central black hole.


General Info & Podcasts

2005 New York Times article.

2006 New Scientist podcast.

2007 podcast of American Astronomical Society invited talk.

2007 Harvard University Bok Prize Lecture

2008 Smithsonian Secretary's Research Prize

2009 Observatory Night talk

2010 Sackler Conference talk

2011 Astronomy Beat (published by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific)

Scientific Publications

  • A Galactic Center Origin for HE 0437-5439, the Hypervelocity Star near the Large Magellanic Cloud .pdf
  • The Anisotropic Spatial Distribution of Hypervelocity Stars .pdf
  • MMT Hypervelocity Star Survey .pdf
  • Hypervelocity Stars: From the Galactic Center to the Halo .pdf
  • Hypervelocity Stars. III. The Space Density and Ejection History of Main Sequence Stars from the Galactic Center .pdf
  • Hypervelocity Stars. II. The Bound Population .pdf
  • Hypervelocity Stars. I. The Spectroscopic Survey .pdf
  • A Successful Targeted Search for Hypervelocity Stars .pdf
  • Discovery of an Unbound Hypervelocity Star in the Milky Way Halo .pdf

    Random Links

    Hypervelocity stars also appear in Peter Schneider's textbook on "Extragalactic Astronomy and Cosmology, An Introduction", in Fulvio Melia's textbook The Galactic Supermassive Black Hole, in Paul McAuley's sci-fi book Eternal Light, and in an original song "Runaway Star" by Paul Hankinson.


    Warren Brown, Margaret Geller, Scott Kenyon, Michael Kurtz


    Hypervelocity stars are exiled to drift in the depths of intergalactic space (artist's conception).
    Learn more ...


    Section Photo