Mark A. Garlick/CfA
An artist's impression of the objects being flung from a black hole
Scientists believe that the supermassive black hole in the middle of the Milky Way is propelling planet size object out into space.
Accepted wisdom has it that nothing, not even light can escape the gravity of a black hole singularity.
But new research using advanced computer algorithms suggests these “spitballs” could be as much as several times the size of Jupiter – by far the biggest planet in our solar system – are being ejected on a regular basis.
They theorise that when stars wander too close to a black hole the intense gravitational pull of the black hole has the power to completely shred the star.
The new research shows however that that is not the end of the story.
The objects could be three times the size of Jupiter
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Epsilon Eridani b orbits an orange Sun-like star only 10.5 light years away from Earth
The gas from the star then gathers itself into a massive planet-sized object which is then flung out into space.
Lead author Eden Girma, an undergraduate student at Harvard University, said: "A single shredded star can form hundreds of these planet-mass objects. We wondered: Where do they end up? How close do they come to us? We developed a computer code to answer those questions.”
Black holes are riping up stars and spitting them back out
From the centre of the Milky Way, the researchers say that these object could whizz past us just a few hundred light years away.
There is a supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way
However, other galaxies, like the nearby Andromeda, is firing these “spitballs” at us.
Co-author James Guillochon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said: "Other galaxies like Andromeda are shooting these 'spitballs' at us all the time.”
Despite being similar in stature to planets, the mysterious objects are made up of the same stuff as stars and do not have a rocky core.
They are also formed in just a year, whereas planets can take millions, even billions, of years to form.
Once they have been flund out of the black hole, travelling at speeds of 20 million miles per hour, it would still take them about one million years to reach this part of the Milky Way.