Giant Hand in Space
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In a new image from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, the nebula around PSR B1509-58 appears to resemble a cosmic hand reaching for some eternal red cosmic light.
The star now spins around at the dizzying pace of seven times every second--as pulsars do--spewing energy into space that creates the "hand."
Strong magnetic fields, 15 trillion times stronger than the Earth's magnetic field, are thought to be involved, too. The combination drives an energetic wind of electrons and ions away from the dying star. As the electrons move through the magnetized nebula, they radiate away their energy as X-rays.
The red light is actually a neighboring gas cloud, RCW 89. Astronomers believe that RCW 89 has been energized into glowing by the fingers of the PSR B1509-58 nebula.
The scene, which spans 150 light-years, is about 17,000 light years away, so what we see now is how it actually looked 17,000 years ago, and that light is just arriving here.