NASA pictures 'Hand of God'
[ 2009-04-16 09:11 ]
This beautiful image of a "cosmic hand" reaching for the stars has been captured by a Nasa observatory.
An X-ray nebula that spans 150 light years is seen along with the pulsar that caused it in this image taken by the Chandra X-ray Observatory satellite and released by NASA April 3, 2009. This pulsar with a diameter of 12 miles, is spinning around almost 7 times a second and has a magnetic field at its surface estimated to be 15 trillion times stronger than the Earth's magnetic field. This combination of rapid rotation and ultra-strong magnetic field drives an energetic wind of electrons and ions, ultimately creating the elaborate nebula seen by Chandra. [NASA]
What appears, with a little imagination, to be the outstretched fingers were created by a spinning neutron star known as a pulsar buried deep inside the fist, which releases energy as it rotates.
Although the pulsar itself is only 12 miles in diameter, the cloud or nebula that it produces stretches across 150 light years of space.
The X-ray image was recorded by Nasa's Chandra observatory which is circling 360 miles above Earth taking images of high-energy locations across the universe, such as the remnants of exploded stars.
Dubbed the Hand of God, following on from an 'Eye of God' image released by European astronomers in February, the nebula pictured in the new X-ray was produced by the pulsar B1509, which is about 17,000 light years away.
Neutron stars are created when standard stars run out of fuel and collapse, and Nasa believes that the one pictured is rotating around seven times a second.
The golden-red lights in the image are actually part of a neighbouring gas cloud, which has been energised by the wind of electrons and ions being spewed out from the pulsar.