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NASA Releases Stunningly Detailed Images of Pluto's Surface

This past July, the New Horizons spacecraft whizzed by Pluto, taking photos, videos, and measurements of the faraway dwarf planet. Now, NASA has released several images detailing Pluto’s icy terrain that are astoundingly clear—and, as continues to be the case with Pluto, deeply intriguing.

With resolutions of about 250–280 feet per pixel, the shots reveal peaks, plains, and craters, highlighting geographic features that NASA says "would be smaller than half a city block” on Pluto’s surface. NASA also shared a video of the faraway planet, which pans a 50-mile swath of its rugged surface.  

“These new images give us a breathtaking, super-high resolution window into Pluto’s geology,” said Alan Stern, principal investigator of New Horizons, in a statement. “Nothing of this quality was available for Venus or Mars until decades after their first flybys; yet at Pluto we’re there alreadydown among the craters, ice fields and mountainsless than five months after flyby! The science we can do with these images is simply unbelievable.”

The photos are the first of a series that NASA will receive in the coming days—meaning if you’re a space buff, you should keep your eyes peeled for more shots to come. Until then, here are the latest pictures and video footage. 


Pluto’s rugged, icy cratered plains include layering in the interior walls of many craters. Layers in geology usually mean an important change in composition or event, but at the moment New Horizons team members do not know if they are seeing local, regional, or global layering.


Erosion and faulting has sculpted portions of Pluto’s icy crust into rugged badlands. The prominent 1.2-mile-high cliff at the top, running from left to upper right, is part of a great canyon system that stretches for hundreds of miles across Pluto’s northern hemisphere.


Great blocks of Pluto’s water-ice crust appear jammed together in the informally named al-Idrisi mountains. Some mountain sides appear coated in dark material, while other sides are bright.



All images courtesy of NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

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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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