The NASA astronomers who captured this incredible image of an exploding star nearly 17,000 light-years away have nicknamed it "The Hand of God." NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) mission described the phenomenon, known as a pulsar wind nebula, in a statement on their website:
It's powered by the leftover, dense core of a star that blew up in a supernova explosion. 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. These particles are interacting with magnetic fields around the material, causing it to glow with X-rays. The result is a cloud that, in previous images, looked like an open hand. The pulsar itself can't be seen in this picture, but is located near the bright white spot.
One of the big mysteries of this object is whether the pulsar particles are interacting with the material in a specific way to make it look like a hand, or if the material is in fact shaped like a hand.
The image was captured using the NuSTAR telescope, which was launched in June 2012 to "perform deep observations of the extragalactic sky."
Ellie Hall is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
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