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Runaway planets ejected from galaxy at insane speeds

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"We were trying to predict, if you have planets around each of the stars in the binary system, what fraction of the planets might go along with the hypervelocity star for the ride," Loeb told SPACE.com. "What we found is that some of them get expelled at high speeds, up to a few percent of the speed of light. Some of the planets get ripped apart from the host stars and get sent out at high speeds, and they also become hypervelocity planets this way." 

These planets would travel through space at unparalleled velocities, the researchers said.

"Other than subatomic particles, I don't know of anything leaving our galaxy as fast as these runaway planets," lead author Idan Ginsburg of Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., said in a statement.

A typical runaway planet would likely dash outward at 7 to 10 million mph (11.3 to 16.1 million kph), but given the right circumstances, a small fraction could have their speeds boosted to up to 30 million mph (48.3 million kph).

"It's like a pinball machine," Loeb said. "Things are kicking around, and if things happen to move in just the right way, a planet could get kicked out at a much higher speed than other planets."

Eventually, these hypervelocity planets will escape the Milky Way and travel through interstellar space on a wild ride, he added.

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