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Images of 'God's Hand' Have Been Captured in Space Again. Here's Why it Has Puzzled Astronomers

'God's Hand' once again brings to light the issue of cometary globules that scientists have been trying to solve for years.
PUBLISHED 3 DAYS AGO
Cover Image Source: Noir Lab
Cover Image Source: Noir Lab

From the formation of the universe to mysteries such as black holes in the expanse, space has always fascinated human beings. Among such phenomena, a cometary globule also called "god's hand" has been discovered by a dark energy camera some 1,300 light-years from Earth, as reported by CNN. This finding has confused astronomers all over the world since it once again raises the question that they have been trying to find answers to for a while. Despite their best efforts, the science community has not been able to figure out how exactly Cometary globules come to fruition. More often than not, they are not even captured by cameras set up in space. 

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Felix Mittermeier
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Felix Mittermeier

Cometary globules are cosmic clouds containing dense gas and dust. The structure is surrounded by hot, energetic material. The image depicts a typical cloud of gas and dust, its uniqueness lies in its peculiar shape. It has a faint tail that resembles a comet along with the appearance of massive outstretched arms reaching across the cosmos. The similarity with arms and how all-encompassing it looks are reasons behind the moniker "God's Hand." The twisting cloud seems to be in pursuit of a spiral galaxy known as ESO 257-19 (PGC 21338). This galaxy is more than 100 million light-years away from the cometary globule. The dusty head which resembles the hand, measures 1.5 light-years across, and it has a long tail that goes on for 8 light-years, as per images released to the public by Noir Lab. Light year means the distance light travels in one year, which is 5.88 trillion miles.

Image Source: Noir Lab
Image Source: Noir Lab

Cometary Globules were first discovered in 1976 when astronomers were going through images captured by the UK Schmidt Telescope in Australia. Usually, the cameras have a difficult time capturing these structures as they are so faint by nature, and the tails of globules are typically blocked from view by stellar dust. The dark energy camera which managed to get the image of "God's Hand" had a special filter attached to it, that allowed the mechanism to detect the incredibly dim red glow emitted by ionized hydrogen, which is present in the outer rim and head of CG 4. The red glow happens when hydrogen in the structure is hit with radiation from nearby hot, massive stars. The radiation provides visibility to the globules but also destroys their head over a period of time. Despite the drawbacks, the structure still manages to have an impact on space as it has enough gas and dust, to create stars the size of the sun.

Most cometary globules spread across space are found in Gum Nebula, a glowing cloud of gas believed to be the slowly expanding remains of a stellar explosion from about 1 million years ago. In addition to "God's hand," it reportedly has 31 other cometary globules. Although no definitive answer has been provided, scientists have speculated that the globules were formed out of round-shaped nebulas, which existed years ago and over time got disrupted by a supernova. The phenomenon might also be the outcome of winds and radiation released from nearby hot, massive stars.

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