NASA Finds the 'Hand of God'

Stunning image shows material from exploded star

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 10, 2014 7:55 AM CST

(Newser) – A newly released NASA photo depicts what appears to be an enormous hand floating in space. The "Hand of God," as it's being called, actually consists of the remains of an exploded star, Space.com explains. It had been imaged in 2009 using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, which captured low-energy X-ray light that appears as the red and green portions; but for the first time, NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, aka NuSTAR, imaged it in high-energy X-rays, which are seen in blue.

The pulsar is some 17,000 light years away and about 12 miles in diameter, the Daily Mail reports, and spins around almost seven times per second, notes a press release. This spinning sends out particles "into material that was upheaved during the star's violent death. These particles are interacting with magnetic fields around the ejected material," generating the "X-ray glow"—though a researcher notes that the image may be "an optical illusion." Either way, "NuSTAR's unique viewpoint, in seeing the highest-energy X-rays, is showing us well-studied objects and regions in a whole new light," says the mission's principal investigator. Sky News reports on the nickname: It's believed to have resulted from similarities between the the image and a portion of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel known as the Hands Of God And Adam.

This undated x-ray image from NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, shows a cloud of material resembling a hand.
This undated x-ray image from NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, shows a cloud of material resembling a hand.   (AP Photo/NASA/JPL-Caltech/McGill)
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