Hypervelocity stars from star clusters hosting intermediate-mass black holes

Giacomo Fragione*, Alessia Gualandris

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Hypervelocity stars (HVSs) represent a unique population of stars in the Galaxy reflecting properties of the whole Galactic potential. Determining their origin is of fundamental importance to constrain the shape and mass of the dark halo. The leading scenario for the ejection of HVSs is an encounter with the supermassive black hole in the Galactic centre. However, new proper motions from the Gaia mission indicate that only the fastest HVSs can be traced back to the Galactic centre and the remaining stars originate in the disc or halo. In this paper, we study HVSs generated by encounters of stellar binaries with an intermediate-mass black hole (IMBH) in the core of a star cluster. For the first time, we model the effect of the cluster orbit in the Galactic potential on the observable properties of the ejected population. HVSs generated by this mechanism do not travel on radial orbits consistent with a Galactic centre origin, but rather point back to their parent cluster, thus providing observational evidence for the presence of an IMBH. We also model the ejection of high-velocity stars from the Galactic population of globular clusters, assuming that they all contain an IMBH, including the effects of the cluster’s orbit and propagation of the star in the Galactic potential up to detection. We find that high-velocity stars ejected by IMBHs have distinctive distributions in velocity, Galactocentric distance and Galactic latitude, which can be used to distinguish them from runaway stars and stars ejected from the Galactic Centre.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4543-4556
Number of pages14
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 11 2019


  • Galaxies: star clusters: general
  • Galaxy: centre
  • Galaxy: kinematics and dynamics
  • Stars: kinematics and dynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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