RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Two NASA X-ray space telescopes have joined together to show what looks like the bones of a hand floating in space!
This “hand” is what is left of a giant star that collapsed on itself roughly 1500 years ago. When it did that, it formed an object called a neutron star. Those neutron stars have strong magnetic fields which can create jets of matter and antimatter in addition to a strong wind.
The newest X-ray telescope, the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer, or IXPE, watched the hand for more than 2 weeks and is helping scientists learn more about this hand-shaped nebula. much like X-rays here on Earth help doctors learn more about the human body.
The IXPE launched less than two years ago in December of 2021, but the other x-ray telescope that is providing the image of this “hand” is the Chandra.
The Chandra has been considered NASA’s “flagship mission for X-ray astronomy” since it launched in July of 1999. It was the Chandra who first saw this ghostly hand back in 2001, but with the pairing of Chandra and IXPE, astronomers are starting to learn more about the magnetic field.
This is a fascinating study, and if you want to learn more about the hand-shaped nebula, you can read about it here.