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Unstrange Phenomena

15 September 2009

Astronomy: Hand of God Nebula

From Denny: This cosmic hand sure is a curiosity! The photo was captured by Nasa's Chandra observatory, circling 360 miles above our Earth. The task of this orbiting observatory is to take photos of events in our universe like the remnants of exploding stars.

This Hand of God Nebula is quite spectacular to view. It is also 17,000 lights years away from us and was produced by the pulsar B1509.

The outstretched fingers on the hand were actually produced by the spinning of a neutron star. The neutron star is known as a pulsar. This pulsar is buried deep inside the fist area and as it rotates it releases energy to create this look.

Get this: the pulsar itself is only 12 miles in diameter yet it produces the nebula to stretch across 150 light years of space!

What's a neutron star? These beauties are created when regular stars run out of fuel, collapsing. NASA seems to think that this nebula is rotating around at seven times a second.

Yeah, so explain those golden red lights. The lights are produced by a neighboring gas cloud. The gas cloud was energized by the pulsar's wind of electrons and ions spit out.

And the colors of this image represent what exactly? They represent different energy intensities: blue lights are the areas of highest energy X-rays, followed by the green and then the red.

This cosmic hand gives new meaning to the old saying, "God will get you for that!" :)
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