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BOSTON, MA – What is this unearthly shape spotted in the night sky?

The Chandra X-Ray Observatory produced this image. Chandra is one of NASA’s four Great Observatories out in space, where it can more easily receive and interpret x-rays than on Earth.


The figure is in fact a pulsar, called PSR B1509-58, which is about 12 miles across and 17,000 light years away. The spinning neutron star is spewing energy out around it, creating complex and beautiful structures such as the one that resembles a large cosmic hand. It is estimated to be spinning completely around almost 7 times every second!

The combination of its rotation and incredibly strong magnetic field, about 15 trillion times stronger than the Earth’s, makes B1509 one of the most powerful electromagnetic generators in the galaxy.