Apr 17, 2009
The Daily Telegraph
WE'VE already seen pictures of his eye ... now we have the first image of the hand of God. A ghostly blue cloud seems to form an outstretched thumb and fingers grasping a ball of fire. The amazing image was taken by NASA's Chandra X-ray observatory, which is orbiting 580km above the Earth. It recalls pictures of the Helix planetary nebula, with its blue centre surrounded by white clouds which earned it the nickname "the eye of God". The hand was created when a star exploded in a supernova, creating a rapidly spinning 20km-wide star called a pulsar, which is deep inside the white blob at the hand's wrist. The pulsar is spewing out enormous amounts of electromagnetic energy, creating a dust and gas cloud so wide it would take 150 years to cross at the speed of light. The red disc is a separate gas cloud. The fingers are thought to have been created as energy passed from the pulsar to the gas cloud. NASA scientists estimated the moment depicted here actually happened 17,000 years ago. It has taken since then for the X-rays to reach Earth.