Latest Images From Dark Energy Camera Show 'God’s Hand' Trying to Catch a Nearby Galaxy

  • CG 4, a cometary globule more commonly known as an "interstellar cloud," is actually much closer to Earth than to the galaxy in the photo.

  • The new images of CG 4 were captured by the Department of Energy's DECam, a 570-megapixel DECam at the Cerro Totolo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.

Dark energy camera captures the God’s Hand trying to catch a galaxy
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The Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile has captured a stunning new image of an object in the Milky Way that gives Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona a run for his money for the nickname "the hand of God."

The new image of cometary globule 4, or CG 4, was taken by the NOIRLab’s DECam dark energy camera, which was installed by the U.S. Department of Energy at an altitude of 7,218 feet between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes.

Cometary Globule 4 (CG 4) Up Close

God's Hand

The dark dust cloud in the photo is cometary globule CG 4, located about 1,300 light-years from Earth in the Puppis constellation.

Known as "God’s Hand" because of its peculiar appearance, experts believe its shape may be due to the enormous hot stars surrounding it.

Cometary globules are very dim and difficult to detect. However, the 13-foot-wide, 570-megapixel DECam camera was able to zero in on it because it has the ability to capture red light from ionized hydrogen, which in CG 4 is due to radiation from nearby stars.

The NOIRLab’s DECam dark energy camera

Just as it allows us to appreciate its beauty, radiation from nearby stars is gradually destroying the head of CG 4, but it still has enough gas to form new Sun-sized stars.

The head of the cluster alone has a diameter of 1.5 light-years. Meanwhile, its long, faint tail is about eight light-years long. The tail is a cometary globule—in this case, a Bok globule—and the reason the object is classified as such.

In the image, it looks as if CG 4 is about to catch galaxy ESO 257-19, but this is only a visual illusion because the galaxy is, in fact, much further away.

What Is a Cometary Globule?

The Cometary Globule CG 4

Cometary globules are a subclass of dark nebulae composed of dense columns of dust and gas. When these globules eject material and form a tail that stretches through space, scientists call them cometary because they resemble comets.

CG 4 is in the Gum Nebula, which is a huge cloud of gas from a supernova that exploded about a million years ago. The Gum Nebula contains at least 31 cometary bodies in addition to CG 4.

There are two theories as to how cometary globules form into comets. The first is that they are spherical nebulae, like the Ring Nebula, formed by the influence of a nearby supernova. The second is that they have undergone constant erosion by stellar winds and radiation from nearby stars.

All the cometary globules found in the Gum Nebula appear to have tails moving away from their centers, which is where the remnants of the Vela supernova are situated.


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