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“Hand of God” Nebula Raises Interesting Questions

    January 10, 2014
    Toni Matthews-El
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NASA has released a breath-taking new image of the pulsar wind nebula known as the ‘Hand of God’. The picture may look to some to be a colorful cloud-like mass in space. But to the more imaginative, you may look closely and observe what appears to be a hand.

The amazing image was captured by Nasa’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array or NuSTAR. Nasa is trying to determine the reason for the unique nebula structure. Are the particles reacting a specific way that causes the appearance of a hand shape or is the nebula in actuality shaped like a hand? The mystery endures.

This is not the only “God-like” image to be captured by telescopes.

A Hubble photograph of the Helix Nebula generated a great deal of buzz and has been called “the Eye of God”. This is due to its startling resemblance to a gigantic human eye. Whereas the “Hand of God” is a bit more ambiguous, the Helix Nebula’s structure features an eyebrow and even an iris.

These human-like traits in the stars inspire some to view it as proof of the existence of a higher power. While others view it as a representation of man’s loneliness and eternal search for kindred spirits in far away galaxies. Opinions will always be divided on this front, but no one can deny that such images are fascinating to look at.

What’s fascinating is that of course these huge structures are not remotely human in shape. The appearance is an optical illusion. The human mind is trained to recognize human-like features, even in non-human objects. The habit of spotting human features in inanimate objects is referred to as pareidolia. This is defined as assigning significance to a perceived pattern where in reality there is none. A piece of toast is just a piece of toast until a person is convinced they see a human face staring back at them. And a massive nebula is just a nebula until it appears remotely human. Or possibly God-like.

One thing remains certain: These images continue to remind us just how much greater than us the universe actually is. And they will inspire us to continue to imagine and work towards a day when such images could be seen up close rather than from the lense of a telescope.

Image via Jason Hunter, Kelson Diego


  • gabby

    amazing!