Giant “ghost hand” spotted in space

The "hand" hit a wall of red cosmic gas. It would be the explosion of a supernova that left behind a super-dense pulsar.

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has given us some of the most breathtaking images from space. It captured the motion of a supernova explosion that took the shape of a giant hand hitting a wall of red cosmic gas. The "hand" was reportedly created by the death of a giant star that left behind a stellar body orbiting the pulsar. The pulsar exploded a bubble of energetic particles that, combined with debris from the supernova explosion, produced a hand-shaped structure 150 light-years in diameter.

The giant ghost hand in space

Images show the motion of the shock wave around the tip of one of the "fingers." Some of the star's remnants, left behind as cosmic debris when it went supernova, are moving even faster, at more than 17.7 million km/h (11 million mph). According to a paper by the Chandra team published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, while incredibly fast, the spectral hand would have experienced a dramatic deceleration. The cosmic formation has been dubbed MSH 15-52 and may have been slowed just by RCW 89, the gas cloud it collided with.

According to the team, the cosmic debris must have first traveled through a cavity of low-density gas, which formed when the star lost its outer layer of hydrogen before exploding, then drastically changed speed when it hit RCW 89. The researchers estimate that the "hand" must have traveled at an average of nearly 50 million km/h (30 million mph). Light from the supernova first reached Earth about 1,700 years ago, at the time of the Mayans. By cosmic standards, however, MSH 15-52 is one of the youngest supernova remnants in the Milky Way.

When the star exploded, it left behind a super-dense pulsar whose core collapsed, emitting energy and going on to create the mysterious space hand. The pulsar's incredible rate of energy release is likely due to the fact that it has an intense magnetic field on its surface, believed to be 15 trillion times stronger than Earth's magnetic field. The pulsar's rapid rotation and strong magnetic field would also make it one of the most powerful electromagnetic generators in the Milky Way.

Staying on the subject of stars, a mega-comet is approaching the Sun and could become the largest ever observed to date.