The “Hand of God,” the energized remains of a dead star that resembles a hand, was captured by NASA’s NuSTAR telescope.
The image, along with one that shows distant black holes buried in blankets of dust, showcase the telescope’s ability to spy objects both near and far, according to the space agency.
“NuSTAR’s unique viewpoint, in seeing the highest-energy X-rays, is showing us well-studied objects and regions in a whole new light,” said Fiona Harrison, the mission’s principal investigator at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, in a statement.
NuStar was launched into space on July 13, 2013 to explore the universe, focusing on black holes, dead and exploded stars, and ” other extreme objects in our own Milky Way galaxy and beyond.”
The new “hand of God” image shows a nebula that is 17,000 light-years away. It’s powered by a dead, spinning star called PSR B1509-58.
“The dead star, called a pulsar, is the leftover core of a star that exploded in a supernova,” NASA says. “The pulsar is only about 19 kilometers (12 miles) in diameter but packs a big punch: it is spinning around nearly seven times every second, spewing particles into material that was upheaved during the star’s violent death. These particles are interacting with magnetic fields around the ejected material, causing it to glow with X-rays. The result is a cloud that, in previous images, looked like an open hand.”
A mystery of the shape is whether the pulsar’s particles are interacting in a way that makes it look like a hand, or if it is actually shaped like a hand.
“We don’t know if the hand shape is an optical illusion,” said Hongjun An of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, in a statement. “With NuSTAR, the hand looks more like a fist, which is giving us some clues.”