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Spooky Space Picture


Images from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the NuSTAR spacecraft have been combined. The resulting image of PSR B1509-58 (B1509 for short) has set tongues wagging. Source: Supplied

  • JANUARY 10, 2014 12:21PM

DIVINE intervention or natural masterpiece? This astronomical image dubbed “The Hand of God” is sending jitters down the spines of viewers the world over.

There’s nothing special about such a cloud of dust and gasses. It’s the natural remains of the death of a star in an explosive nova.

Apply a little imagination, and it’s an enormous hand sending forth a blue energy bolt as red fire dances about the fingertips.

“We don’t know if the hand shape is an optical illusion,” Hongjun An, of McGill University in Montreal, said in a statement. “With NuSTAR, the hand looks more like a fist, which is giving us some clues.”

Humanity has been reading shapes into arrangements of the stars as constellations for millennia. As astronomy advances and the images get clearer, this tendency remains the same.

In an infinite universe, the odds of such a random eruption creating a shape which can be interpreted as an image is actually quite high.

Just look at clouds. You’ll see dozens of images evolve and transform above you. Science has a name for it: Pareidolia.

This new NASA photo is actually an x-ray image. So it’s not actually “visible” at all.

Part of the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), the high-energy X-rays being blasted outward s by the stars death-throes show in the above image as the blue.

The Green and red components were captured separately using lower-energy x-ray exposures.

What it reveals is a pulsar wind nebula. The shattered core of the dying star remains as a pulsar (designated PSR B1509-58), spinning a jet of particles into space as it rotates once every seven seconds. While it cannot be seen in the above image, it is located near the centre of the bright white spot.

As these particles collide with nearby magnetic fields, they begin to glow in the x-ray spectrum.

The red cloud at the fingertips is a separate interstellar structure called RCW 89. The pulsar’s wind may be heating the cloud to produce the low-energy X-ray glow.

But perhaps there’s another reason we shouldn’t read too much into these colourful clouds in the night sky.

After all, what would a divine being be telling us in the image below?


The universe is filled with humour. Source: Supplied



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3 comments on “Spooky Space Picture

  1. andy1076
    January 12, 2014

    I’m trying not to chuckle at the last one but LOL 😉 ah, the universe. What a beautiful thing 😉


    • Judy
      January 12, 2014

      Indeed it is beautiful. I was going to say other worldly then realised that’s exactly what it is. Duh! 🙂


      • andy1076
        January 12, 2014

        LOL ah I needed this today thank you 😀


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