Monday, April 6, 2009

Giant Nebula Hand in Space Photographed

In an old and rare Star Trek comic book, there's this story where the starship Enterprise gets held in space by a giant hand which turns out to be that of a space genie or a pretty physical illusion of one. Anyway, that was a fictional "hand in space." Astronomers have found a real one and it appears to be a right hand reaching out to a red nebula.

The hand in space is really part of pulsar PSR B1509-58. It used to be a star that collapsed on itself due to gravity to a mere 12 miles in diameter. So you can imagine how powerful this piece of matter is and the amount of energy it releases into space as the extremely powerful magnetic field directs subatomic particles like electrons outwards creating x-rays. The "blue hand" is a result of these x-rays from the pulsar and was revealed by the Chandra X-ray Observatory. It is a great example of a simulacrum. This one will likely be used for a lot of astronomy posters.

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