'Hand Of God', Or Believers Grasping A Straw?

Some of the diminishing number of people who still believe in God have grasped at the straw of an X-ray image from NASA which appears to resemble a hand. They have dubbed the colorful blob the "Hand of God", which makes for a great media headline but is hardly a scientific justification for the claim.

The image is of a star which exploded and sent out an enormous cloud of material into space. The NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, captured the high-energy X-rays which appear as the blue color. The green and red elements have been created from previous observations by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory which used. lower-energy X-rays.

Fiona Harrison, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena stated "NuSTAR's unique viewpoint, in seeing the highest-energy X-rays, is showing us well-studied objects and regions in a whole new light."

It takes quite a stretch of imagination to interpret that shape as the type of X-ray image of a hand that might be seen in hospital, and an even bigger leap of faith to claim that it has any connection to any God.

The scientific explanation of what the image actually depicts is a pulsar wind nebula, produced by the dense remnant of a star that exploded in a supernova. What remained 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.

These particles interact with nearby magnetic fields and produce an X-ray glow. It is this glow which is the "hand."

The term "Hand of God" is generally understood to refer to a detail in a fresco painting by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

The painting is called "The Creation of Adam" and it is the image of the near-touching hands of God and Adam in the painting that has become iconic of humanity and has been reproduced in countless imitations and parodies.

God and Adam