'Hand of God' captured in NASA image

'Hand of God' captured in NASA image

Credit: USA Today, NASA

The hand might look like an X-ray from the doctor's office, but it is actually a cloud of material ejected from a star that exploded.

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by Jolie Lee / USA Today

USA Today

Posted on January 10, 2014 at 1:21 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 10 at 1:21 PM

What looks like an X-ray of a hand is actually the remains of a star that exploded 17,000 light-years away.

The astronomers who captured this image with a NASA space telescope call it the "Hand of God."

"We don't know if the hand shape is an optical illusion," said Hongjun An of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, in a statement from the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) Mission.

What the image shows is a pulsar wind nebula, a dying star and the cloud of materials left over from the star after it exploded. The particles are interacting with nearby magnetic fields, causing the particles to glow in the image, according to NuSTAR.

It's unclear whether the nebula looks like a hand because of the way the particles interact with the magnetic fields or if the particles are actually shaped like a hand.

NuSTAR says the star is about 12 miles in diameter and spins at nearly seven times a second. As the star spins, it spews particles "upheaved during the star's violent death."

The NuSTAR space telescope was launched in June 2012 with the goal of observing black holes, dead and exploded stars and "other extreme objects," according to NuSTAR.

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