A group of astronomers believe they have found the first example in our galaxy of what looks like the impossible: an object moving faster than light. But don't chuck those physics textbooks yet.
It's just an illusion, and the blob of matter is really poking along at only about 92 percent of the speed of light. That's still a record for the galaxy.The faster-than-light illusion had been spotted several times before outside the Milky Way. But because it's closer than previous ones, further study might help scientists confirm their understanding of the illusion, researchers said.
The discovery is reported in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature by Felix Mirabel of the Saclay Center for Studies in Gif-sur-Yvette, France, and Luis Rodriguez of the National Autonomous University in Mexico City. They did the work at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Socorro, N.M.
They observed two blobs of matter blasting away in opposite directions from an object that appears to be a black hole or an ultradense neutron star. One of the blobs appeared to be moving 25 percent faster than the speed of light, which is 186,000 miles per second.
But it's an illusion created by the blob's very high speed and its moving closer to Earth while angling well away from a direct path to Earth.
The object launching the blobs is about 40,000 light-years away in the direction of the constellation Aquila, or Eagle. A light-year is the distance light travels in one year, about 5.88 trillion miles.