A mysterious image has astronomers and other observers of the heavens wondering. The color-enhanced image shows what was left of a star that exploded about 17,000 light years away from earth. Resembling the x-ray of a hand, some astronomers are calling it the “Hand of God.”
Scientists are not certain whether the hand shape is an optical illusion or not.
The image shows a pulsar wind nebula, or dying star. It is not known whether the nebula resembles a human hand because of the interaction of stellar particles with magnetic fields, or if the particles are hand-shaped. According to the NuSTAR statement, “The stellar corpse, called PSR B1509-58, or B1509 for short, is a pulsar: it rapidly spins around, seven times per second, firing out a particle wind into the material around it -- material that was ejected in the star's explosion.”
The image combines images taken by NuSTAR and the Chandra x-ray observatory. NuSTAR has imaged the pulsar in high-energy X-rays, which are shown in blue. Lower-energy X-ray light detected by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory previously is shown in green and red.
The star is approximately 12 miles in diameter and spins at about seven revolutions per second. As it revolves, the star emits particles thrown out during the star's violent death.
NASA launched the NuSTAR space telescope into the void in 2012 with the intention of providing data on black holes, exploding and dead stars, as well as "other extreme objects" said a statement from NuSTAR.