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]

Roadside Bear Statue in Wales is So Lifelike That Safety Officials Want It Removed

Wooden bear statue.

There are no real bears in the British Isles for residents to worry about, but a statue of one in the small Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells has become a cause of concern. As The Telegraph reports, the statue is so convincing that it's scaring drivers, causing at least one motorist to crash her car. Now road safety officials are demanding it be removed.

The 10-foot wooden statue has been a fixture on the roadside for at least 15 years. It made headlines in May of 2018 when a woman driving her car saw the landmark and took it to be the real thing. She was so startled that she veered off the road and into a street sign.

After the incident, she complained about the bear to highways officials who agreed that it poses a safety threat and should be removed. But the small town isn't giving in to the Welsh government's demands so quickly.

The bear statue was originally erected on the site of a now-defunct wool mill. Even though the mill has since closed, locals still see the statue as an important landmark. Llanwrtyd Wells councilor Peter James called it an "iconic gateway of the town," according to The Telegraph.

Another town resident, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Telegraph that the woman who crashed her car had been a tourist from Canada where bears are common. Bear were hunted to extinction in Britain about 1000 years ago, so local drivers have no reason to look out for the real animals on the side of the road.

The statue remains in its old spot, but Welsh government officials plan to remove it themselves if the town doesn't cooperate. For now, temporary traffic lights have been set up around the site of the accident to prevent any similar incidents.

[h/t The Telegraph]

The Most Popular Infomercial Product in Each State

You don't have to pay $19.95 plus shipping and handling to discover the most popular infomercial product in each state: AT&T retailer All Home Connections is giving that information away for free via a handy map.

The map was compiled by cross-referencing the top-grossing infomercial products of all time with Google Trends search interest from the past calendar year. So, which crazy products do people order most from their TVs?

Folks in Arizona know that it's too hot there to wear layers; that's why they invest in the Cami Secret—a clip-on, mock top that gives them the look of a camisole without all the added fabric. No-nonsense New Yorkers are protecting themselves from identity theft with the RFID-blocking Aluma wallet. Delaware's priorities are all sorted out, because tons of its residents are still riding the Snuggie wave. Meanwhile, Vermont has figured out that Pajama Jeans are the way to go—because who needs real pants?

Unsurprisingly, the most popular product in many states has to do with fitness and weight loss, because when you're watching TV late enough to start seeing infomercials, you're probably also thinking to yourself: "I need to get my life together. I should get in shape." Seven states—Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, and Wisconsin—have invested in the P90X home fitness system, while West Virginia and Arkansas prefer the gentler workout provided by the Shake Weight. The ThighMaster is still a thing in Illinois and Washington, while Total Gym and Bowflex were favored by South Dakota and Wyoming, respectively. 

Kitchen items are clearly another category ripe for impulse-buying: Alabama and North Dakota are all over the George Forman Grill; Alaska and Rhode Island are mixing things up with the Magic Bullet; and Floridians must be using their Slice-o-matics to chop up limes for their poolside margaritas.

Cleaning products like OxiClean (D.C. and Hawaii), Sani Sticks (North Carolina), and the infamous ShamWow (which claims the loyalty of Mainers) are also popular, but it's Proactiv that turned out to be the big winner. The beloved skin care system claimed the top spot in eight states—California, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas—making it the most popular item on the map.

Peep the full map above, or check out the full study from All Home Connections here.


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