Who says science and religion don't work together? The "Hand of God" has appeared in a recent photograph taken by one of NASA's telescopes.
The image shows something that literally looks like what one would see in a doctor's office after getting an X-ray, but since it's a celestial event, people are calling it the "Hand of God."
This is how it all came to happen.
A star exploded and ejected an large cloud of material, which NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, captured in high-energy X-rays, shown in blue in the picture.
Combining these images with those of NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, which had imaged the green and red parts earlier using lower-energy X-rays, the result was the "Hand of God."
"NuSTAR's unique viewpoint, in seeing the highest-energy X-rays, is showing us well-studied objects and regions in a whole new light," NuSTAR principal investigator Fiona Harrison of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena said in a statement.
According to the website Space.com:
The new image depicts a pulsar wind nebula, produced by the dense remnant of a star that exploded in a supernova. What's left behind is a pulsar, called PSR B1509-58 (B1509 for short), which spins around 7 times per second blowing a wind of particles into material ejected during the star's death throes.
"As these particles interact with nearby magnetic fields, they produce an X-ray glow in the shape of a hand. (The pulsar is located near the bright white spot in the image but cannot be seen itself, NASA officials said.)"
Scientists don't know whether the released material actually takes the shape of a hand -- the "Hand of God" -- or whether its interaction with the pulsar's particles is just making it appear that way.
"We don't know if the hand shape is an optical illusion," Hongjun An, of McGill University in Montreal, said in a statement. "With NuSTAR, the hand looks more like a fist, which is giving us some clues."
The "Hand of God" is an example of the psychological phenomenon known as pareidolia, in which people perceive familiar figures in random or vague images. Other examples are seeing animals or other figures in clouds.
Even thought the "Hand of God" appears to be exactly that, the image was created by a natural astrophysical event.
In 2009, NASA spotted the "hand" when the Chandra Observatory captured the image while photographing an X-ray nebula.
You can download the "Hand of God" wallpaper here.
[Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech/McGill]