High-Energy X-ray View of 'Hand of God'

Nustar_nustar140109a_500

nustar_nustar140109a January 9th, 2014

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Can you see the shape of a hand in this new X-ray image? 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. NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has imaged the structure in high-energy X-rays for the first time, shown in blue. Lower-energy X-ray light previously detected by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is shown in green and red.

Nicknamed the "Hand of God," this object is called a pulsar wind nebula. It's powered by the leftover, dense core of a star that blew up in a supernova explosion. The stellar corpse, called PSR B1509-58, or B1509 for short, is a pulsar: it rapidly spins around, seven times per second, firing out a particle wind into the material around it -- material that was ejected in the star's explosion. These particles are interacting with magnetic fields around the material, causing it to glow with X-rays. The result is a cloud that, in previous images, looked like an open hand. The pulsar itself can't be seen in this picture, but is located near the bright white spot.

One of the big mysteries of this object is whether the pulsar particles are interacting with the material in a specific way to make it look like a hand, or if the material is in fact shaped like a hand.

NuSTAR's view is providing new clues to the puzzle. The hand actually shrinks in the NuSTAR image, looking more like a fist, as indicated by the blue color. The northern region, where the fingers are located, shrinks more than the southern part, where a jet lies, implying the two areas are physically different.

The red cloud at the end of the finger region is a different structure, called RCW 89. Astronomers think the pulsar's wind is heating the cloud, causing it to glow with lower-energy X-ray light.

In this image, X-ray light seen by Chandra with energy ranges of 0.5 to 2 kiloelectron volts (keV) and 2 to 4 keV is shown in red and green, respectively, while X-ray light detected by NuSTAR in the higher-energy range of 7 to 25 keV is blue.

Image Source: /image/nustar/nustar140109a

Curator: NuSTAR: Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, Pasadena, CA

Image Use Policy: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/imagepolicy/

Image Details

Image Type
Observation
Object Name
Hand of God PSR B1509-58
Subject - Milky Way
Star » Evolutionary Stage » Neutron Star » Pulsar
Nebula » Appearance

Distance

Universescale1
17,000 light years
Nustar_nustar140109a_128
 

Position Details

Position (ICRS)
RA = 15h 13m 55.6s
DEC = -59° 8’ 6.6”
Orientation
North is up
Field of View
20.2 x 20.2 arcminutes
Constellation
Circinus

Color Mapping

  Telescope Spectral Band Wavelength
Arrow_left_red Chandra X-ray 1.2398 nm
Arrow_left_green Chandra X-ray 413.3 pm
Arrow_left_blue NuSTAR X-ray 77.5 pm
Spectrum_xray1w
Arrow_top_red
Arrow_top_green
Arrow_top_blue
Nustar_nustar140109a_1280
×
ID
nustar140109a
Subject Category
B.3.1.9.1   B.4.*  
Subject Name
Hand of God, PSR B1509-58
Credits
NASA/JPL-Caltech
Lightyears
17,000
Redshift
Reference Url
/image/nustar/nustar140109a
Type
Observation
Image Quality
Good
Distance Notes
Facility
Chandra, Chandra, NuSTAR
Instrument
Color Assignment
Red, Green, Blue
Band
X-ray, X-ray, X-ray
Bandpass
Central Wavelength
1.2398, 0.41328, 0.07749
Start Time
Integration Time
Dataset ID
Notes
Coordinate Frame
ICRS
Equinox
2000.0
Reference Value
228.48152412000, -59.13515314610
Reference Dimension
2500.00, 2500.00
Reference Pixel
1146.53672172658, 945.85275321535
Scale
-0.00013489954, 0.00013489954
Rotation
0.01372062855
Coordinate System Projection:
TAN
Quality
Full
FITS Header
Notes
Creator (Curator)
NuSTAR: Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array
URL
http://www.nustar.caltech.edu
Name
Email
Telephone
Address
City
Pasadena
State/Province
CA
Postal Code
Country
Rights
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/imagepolicy/
Publisher
Publisher ID
nustar
Resource ID
Resource URL
/image/nustar/nustar140109a
Related Resources
Metadata Date
2014-07-16 17:43:17 -0700
Metadata Version
1.2
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Detailed color mapping information coming soon...

 

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Universescalefull
17,000 light years