NASA missions spy a ghostly hand and creepy face in the cosmos

Oct 31, 2023, 9:23 AM

Data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer contributed t...

Data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer contributed to this composite image of a nebula that resembles a glowing hand. (NASA/CXC/Stanford Univ./R. Romani et al.)

(NASA/CXC/Stanford Univ./R. Romani et al.)

(CNN) — The cosmos is full of mysteries waiting to be solved, and some of them appear especially eerie with the arrival of Halloween.

A haunting “face” on Jupiter and a ghostly, skeletal hand-shaped nebula are just a couple of creepy celestial features recently spotted by NASA missions.

Jupiter’s eerie ‘face’

The Juno mission, orbiting Jupiter and some of its largest moons since 2016, made its 54th close flyby of the largest planet in our solar system on September 7. The JunoCam instrument captured swirling clouds and storms in Jupiter’s northern regions along the planet’s terminator, or the line dividing the day side from the night side.

A Picasso-like face appears to emerge from the turbulent atmosphere in a phenomenon called pareidolia, in which viewers spy faces and other recognizable objects within random patterns.

The raw data, available to the public on the JunoCam website, was processed by citizen scientist Vladimir Tarasov. During the close pass, Juno flew about 4,800 miles (7,700 kilometers) above the planet’s cloud tops, where the low angle of sunlight added to the dramatic nature of the image.

X-rays spot celestial bones

X-rays were first used by physicist Wilhelm Röntgen to image the bones of his wife’s hand in 1895 — and now, two X-ray telescopes have revealed the “bones” of a glowing hand-shaped cloud that formed in the aftermath of a star’s collapse.

The cloud of gas and dust, or nebula, was created 1,500 years ago when a massive star burned through its interior nuclear fuel and collapsed. The nebula, known as MSH 15-52, is located about 16,000 light-years from Earth.

As the star collapsed, it left behind a dense remnant known as a neutron star. Rapidly rotating neutron stars that have strong magnetic fields are called pulsars. Newly formed pulsars send out jets of energized material and have powerful winds, which created this particular nebula.

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory observed the pulsar, known as PSR B1509-58, for the first time in 2001. The bright pulsar was spotted within the base of the “palm” of the hand-shaped nebula. A jet from the pulsar can be traced down to the “wrist.”

Map of a nebula’s magnetic field

More than 20 years later, NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer, or IXPE, spent 17 days observing the nebula. This is the space observatory’s longest observing campaign since launching in December 2021. The results of the new telescope’s operations were published Monday in The Astrophysical Journal.

“The IXPE data gives us the first map of the magnetic field in the ‘hand,’” said lead study author Roger Romani, professor of physics at Stanford University in California, in a statement “The charged particles producing the X-rays travel along the magnetic field, determining the basic shape of the nebula, like the bones do in a person’s hand.”

The telescope’s unique observational capabilities are allowing scientists to determine where particles in the nebula are accelerated by turbulent regions within the magnetic field.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

FILE - Sean "Diddy" Combs arrives at the LA Premiere of "The Four: Battle For Stardom" at the CBS R...

Andrew Dalton, The Associated Press

Sean Combs admits beating ex-girlfriend Cassie, says he’s sorry, calls his actions ‘inexcusable’

Sean “Diddy” Combs admitted that he beat his ex-girlfriend Cassie in a hotel hallway in 2016 after CNN released video of the attack, saying in a video apology he was “truly sorry” and his actions were “inexcusable.”

13 hours ago

Roughly one in seven (15.3%) Gen Z credit card borrowers have maxed out their credit cards. (Westen...

Matt Egan, CNN

1 in 7 Gen Z credit card users are ‘maxed out’

Roughly one in seven (15.3%) Gen Z credit card borrowers have maxed out their credit cards, according to new research from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

13 hours ago

Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse are depicted in the 'Partners' statue at Disneyland in Anaheim, Califo...

Eva Rothenberg, CNN

Disneyland character performers vote to unionize

(CNN) — You can add Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy to the growing list of workers seeking better employment benefits. After three days of voting last week, 1,700 Disneyland Resort cast members who play characters around the theme park in Anaheim, California, as well as perform at parades, voted to unionize under Actors’ Equity Association, […]

14 hours ago

Cailey Fleming, left, and John Krasinski pose with the character "Blue" at the premiere of Paramoun...

Lindsay Bahr, The Associated Press

John Krasinski’s ‘IF’ hits a box office nerve with $35 million debut

John Krasinski’s imaginary friends movie “IF” claimed the top spot at the box office this weekend according to studio estimates Sunday. Its $35 million North American debut was also a bit lower than some projections.

15 hours ago

This aerial view shows debris from the destroyed Francis Scott Key Bridge being detached from the c...

Amanda Musa and Zoe Sottile, CNN

Trapped cargo ship Dali will refloat to Baltimore Monday at high tide

Almost two months after its devastating collision with a Baltimore bridge, the trapped cargo ship Dali will refloat and travel to the Baltimore marine terminal on Monday morning, officials said.

15 hours ago

Protesters descend a staircase in the Minnesota State Capitol building in St. Paul, holding signs a...

Eva Rothenberg, CNN

Minnesota lawmakers strike minimum pay deal for Uber, Lyft drivers

Minnesota lawmakers successfully struck a deal with rideshare companies Uber and Lyft to establish a minimum wage standard for their drivers.

17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 Internet Safety Tips for Kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

NASA missions spy a ghostly hand and creepy face in the cosmos