Ah geez, if THIS isn't a metaphor for our cosmic, intertwined lives, I don't know what is ~ an excerpt from the article in today's San Francisco Chronicle:
A lonely young star has been discovered fleeing from the Milky Way galaxy at the most fantastic speeds ever seen, and Harvard astronomers say it is doomed to wander throughout the universe for the rest of its life.
"We've never before seen a star moving fast enough to escape the confines of our galaxy," said astrophysicist Warren Brown, its co-discoverer. "We're tempted to call it the outcast star."
Already the star is nearing the outskirts of the Milky Way, Brown said. It probably has been flying on its present course from the galactic center for less than 80 million years. In another 80 million years, it could be entirely clear of the Milky Way and hurtling out into the vast and endless reaches of intergalactic space, he said.
Runaway stars are not uncommon in our galaxy, Brown said in an interview Thursday, but this one is moving at more than 1.5 million mph -- faster than the "escape velocity" of the entire galaxy, and many times faster than the speed the Apollo astronauts needed to exceed Earth's escape velocity of 25,000 mph to reach the moon.
The stellar outcast, Brown believes, had a companion once. The two -- together known as a binary star -- were rotating around each other, linked together like a couple twirling in a high-speed waltz. The two stars, in turn, were speeding together around the massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy in an orbit about 1.5 billion miles out -- "which, cosmically speaking, is a pretty close pass," he said.
The black hole's immensely powerful gravity drew one of the stars closer, while the speed of the other star -- both around its companion and around the black hole -- flung it away, like a rock from a slingshot. As the outcast sped off, the black hole gripped the other star ever tighter and forced it into a closer orbit.
As for the outcast star's companion that was left behind, Hills said it was probably now flying in a closer and closer orbit around the black hole at the Milky Way's center. Eventually, he said, the black hole's immense gravity probably will tear that orphan star apart "and swallow it."