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Supernova Shockwave Recorded for the First Time

NASA's Kepler space telescope has captured the spectacular flash of a supernova shockwave, or "shock breakout," exploding 1.2 billion light-years from Earth. The stellar event, which occurs when a dying star collapses and bursts into a brilliant supernova, has never before been captured in visible light until now, Gizmodo reports.

The Kepler probe was deployed by NASA in 2009 to seek out planets beyond our solar system. Today the telescope is also used to study star clusters and supernovae, and in 2011 it recorded the fiery deaths of two colossal red supergiants. Only the larger of the two, a star about 500 times the size of our Sun, displayed a shock breakout that was detected in the Kepler recordings.

According to a study in Astrophysical Journal, a science team led by University of Notre Dame astrophysicist Peter Garnavich came across the event when sifting through mountains of data captured by the telescope from 500 different galaxies over the course of three years. They were on the lookout for evidence of supernovae, which are created when a giant star runs out of the fuel necessary to sustain itself, collapses under its own gravitational pull, and then explodes into a brilliant supernova, which can sometimes grow bright enough to outshine whole galaxies. Before a supernova starts to expand, a super-bright flash is created as the shockwave of the collapsing core breaks past the star's surface. You can see what this process looks like in the animation above.

Understanding how supernovae form is vital to understanding the universe. Heavy elements like silver, nickel, and copper are all derived from such explosions, and according to Steve Howell, project scientist for NASA's Kepler mission, life as we know it wouldn't exist without them.

Header/banner images courtesy of NASA via YouTube

[h/t Gizmodo]

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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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