Unexpected Supernovas in Deep Space

Supernovas in Deep Space:

Before we jump into the nitty-gritty of these random exploding supernovas in no man’s land, let’s try to wrap our heads around something.

First, think of how far you drove on your last road trip and the distance you traveled on a map. You were likely traveling around 60 to 70 miles per hour and perhaps you drove for 5, 10 or even 15 hours, or more.

Now imagine this road trip. Traveling at 4.5 million miles per hour, over the course of 50 million years.

That’s this many miles: 1,971,000,000,000,000,000.

And this many light years: 335,282

It’s amazing to think that these supernovas in deep space were able to travel that fast and for that long and still have room to go.

So, with that in mind, let’s jump into it and see what’s going on with these random exploding Supernovas in Deep Space.

Who, What, When, Where and Why

According to new research and studies being conducted by the Physics and Astronomy Professor at the Illinois University, Ryan Foley (Who), exploding supernovas (What) were being observed in areas of deep space (Where) that shouldn’t have stars, supernovas or any sort of explosion.

With the help of data from the Hubble Space of NASA telescope and other telescopes, Foley found and identified 13 high-velocity exploding stars which had been traveling for roughly 50 million years (When) in deep space. He was able to trace these stars back to their original galaxies and discovered some very strange occurrences and events which lead to their explosions in no man’s land.



Photo by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center,


Professor Ryan Foley’s findings are, for the first time published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The hypothesis is that a star got too close and tangled up with a binary black hole system (Why). When these stars would get too close, they could get caught between the force of the black holes rotating and orbiting around one another. When they did, they were shot out of their host galaxy at incredible speeds, like a slingshot.

Rare Supernovas in Deep Space:

Supernovas are by no means rare, neither is deep space, which is in abundance throughout the Universe.

However, these stars were extremely far from any other galaxy, any giant molecular cloud that might have suggested that they were born there and have much higher amounts of calcium detected than what would be expected.

What is a Supernova:

A supernova is a stellar explosion that briefly outshines an entire galaxy, radiating as much energy as the Sun or any ordinary star is expected to emit over its entire life span, before fading from view over several weeks or months.

What To Do, What To Do?

Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na… Professor Ryan Foley!

Professor Foley searched in the nearby area where these supernovas exploded and didn’t find any clusters of old stars, star formations, basically nothing was nearby.

This was the proof in the pudding that these stars had come from somewhere and that somewhere was nowhere near why they eventually exploded.



Photo by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center,


After the long and painful exercise of tracing these stars back to their host galaxies, he was able to determine that these stars had been traveling at insanely fast rates of speed; 4.5 million miles per hour. Additionally, these stars were a long, long way from home, they had been traveling at millions of miles per hour for millions of years; in some cases, 50 million years.

So How Did They Get There?

These supernovas in deep space didn’t just get out in the middle of nowhere by simply getting up and walking. Something had to have a profound influence on these exploding stars to send them at that velocity, over that length of distance. But what could it be…?

To understand what caused these supernovas in deep space, Professor Foley did a deep analysis in the unique qualities found in each of the exploding star’s originating galaxies.

Unique and Telling Findings:

These supernovas were rich in calcium, which meant they came from groups of white dwarf stars, very, very old stars. White dwarf stars have ceased nuclear fusion and have stopped all production of energy, resulting in a lot of calcium.

Merging Galaxies?

He then determined that all of the galaxies these stars originated from showed signs of having merged or were in the process of merging with other galaxies.

Imagine you’re blowing bubbles and two of them collide, they eventually both change direction, merge together and increase in size and mass. That’s exactly what happened to these galaxies.



Photo by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center,


Any everyone knows, when you merge two massive galaxies, you get two supermassive black holes; a binary black hole system!

What is a Binary black hole:

A binary black hole is a system consisting of two black holes in close orbit around each other. Subtypes include stellar binary black holes, which are remnants of high-mass binary star systems, and binary supermassive black holes, which are believed to be the result of galactic mergers.

The Slingshot Effect:

To get a star 1,971,000,000,000,000,000 miles from its host galaxy, traveling at 4.5 million miles per hour, you’ve got to have some serious force behind that.

Enter the slingshot effect. Imagine you’ve got two black holes rotating around one another. Their orbit draws them together as their gravitational pull attracts. They’re then pushed away when they get too close and project each other in opposing directions. The force between these two insanely powerful objects would be mind-bending, literally.



Photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center,


Now, imagine being a decently large-sized object (a star) and getting caught up in this tango between two black holes. Once you get too close and intertwined with their rotating orbits, you’d be flung out of into the emptiness of space at high velocity speeds – like a slingshot.

What is a Binary Black Hole Slingshot:

In 1988 the gravitational slingshot effect from the galaxy’s central black hole was hypothesized as the propulsion source. Basically, runaway space objects get caught in the gravitational pull of a binary black hole system and eject that object out into space, away from its gravitational influence.

What’s To Come?

Professor Foley is excited for the future, these finding are encouraging and will hopefully help in the development of technologies and methods of detecting more binary supermassive black hole systems.

Binary supermassive black hole systems are extremely important and pretty rare. This astronomical phenomena provides insight into gravity, general and special relativity, quasars, dark energy and other mysteries.


Featured image by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center,

We strive to create amazing and unique content about all things related to Space and Astronomy.

Leave a Reply

Next ArticleTotal Supermoon Lunar Eclipse