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Hubble Snaps Another Gorgeous Pic of "Pillars of Creation"


NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA); click to enlarge.

In 1995, the Hubble Telescope snapped a photo of a portion of the Eagle Nebula (M16) called "Pillars of Creation," three columns of cold gas illuminated by ultraviolet light emanating from young stars. According to Phil Plait at Slate's Bad Astronomy blog, "It was the first highly detailed look astronomers ever got into a star-forming region, and we immediately learned quite a bit about them."

The image quickly became iconic, appearing in movies and TV shows, on t-shirts and on a postal stamp. Now, in honor of the 25th anniversary of Hubble's launch (which is officially in April), the craft has photographed the Pillars again, this time in stunning, glorious high-definition (click on the image above to get a closer look; you can compare the two images here).

Astronomers assembled several Hubble shots, taken with its Wide Field Camera 3 in September 2014, to create the new photo of the Pillars, which are about 5 light years tall. "I'm impressed by how transitory these structures are," said Arizona State University in Tempe's Paul Scowen, who was co-leader of the original observations of the Eagle Nebula. "They are actively being ablated away before our very eyes. The ghostly bluish haze around the dense edges of the pillars is material getting heated up and evaporating away into space. We have caught these pillars at a very unique and short-lived moment in their evolution."

In addition to the above photo, which shows the Pillars in visible light, astronomers also snapped a pic of the formation in near-infrared—which penetrates most of the gas and dust to show the baby stars being formed in the nebula—creating the gorgeous and ghostly photo below.


NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA); click to enlarge.

For more analysis of the images and what you can see in them, head over to Plait's post on Slate.

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26 Facts About LEGO Bricks

Since it first added plastic, interlocking bricks to its lineup, the Danish toy company LEGO (from the words Leg Godt for “play well”) has inspired builders of all ages to bring their most imaginative designs to life. Sets have ranged in size from scenes that can be assembled in a few minutes to 5000-piece behemoths depicting famous landmarks. And tinkerers aren’t limited to the sets they find in stores. One of the largest LEGO creations was a life-sized home in the UK that required 3.2 million tiny bricks to construct.

In this episode of the List Show, John Green lays out 26 playful facts about one of the world’s most beloved toy brands. To hear about the LEGO black market, the vault containing every LEGO set ever released, and more, check out the video above then subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up-to-date with the latest flossy content.

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Of Buckeyes and Butternuts: 29 States With Weird Nicknames for Their Residents
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Tracing a word’s origin and evolution can yield fascinating historical insights—and the weird nicknames used in some states to describe their residents are no exception. In the Mental Floss video above, host John Green explains the probable etymologies of 29 monikers that describe inhabitants of certain states across the country.

Some of these nicknames, like “Hoosiers” and “Arkies” (which denote residents of Indiana and Arkansas, respectively) may have slightly offensive connotations, while others—including "Buckeyes," "Jayhawks," "Butternuts," and "Tar Heels"—evoke the military histories of Ohio, Kansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. And a few, like “Muskrats” and “Sourdoughs,” are even inspired by early foods eaten in Delaware and Alaska. ("Goober-grabber" sounds goofier, but it at least refers to peanuts, which are a common crop in Georgia, as well as North Carolina and Arkansas.)

Learn more fascinating facts about states' nicknames for their residents by watching the video above.

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