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The fastest spinning star in the galaxy

8 Jul 2020, 13:00 UTC
The fastest spinning star in the galaxy
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An astronomer has found the fastest spinning star known in our galaxy… and it's a doozy. It's rotating at the dizzying speed of at least 540 kilometers per second. In fact, if it were spinning much faster, it would tear itself apart!

The star is called LAMOST J040643.69+542347.8, but let's call it J0406 for short. It's located about 30,000 light years from us, toward the outer edge of the galaxy. LAMOST is a sky survey being done in China that looks at wide areas of the sky and takes low-resolution spectra of astronomical objects. That means it breaks the light up into thousands of individual slices of color, which in turn can tell us a lot about the object's properties: How fast it's moving toward or away from us, how hot it is, what it's made of, and — crucially in this case — how rapidly it spins.

In this case, the astronomer was looking for a special kind of star when they noticed one star had an odd spectrum, with unusual features in it associated with rapid spin. Careful measurement indicated that the star has the phenomenal rotation speed of 540 kilometers per second.

That's fast. The Sun's rotation ...

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