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Everything you need to know: Geminid meteor shower

Meteor flying straight from Gemini's two brightest stars, Castor and Pollux, on night of December 12-13, 2012.  Photo by EarthSky Facebook friend Mike O'Neal in Oklahoma.  Thank you Mike!

Meteor flying straight from Gemini’s two brightest stars, Castor and Pollux, during the 2012 shower. Photo by Mike O’Neal in Oklahoma.

The peak night of the 2014 Geminid meteor shower will probably occur on the night of December 13 (morning of December 14). The night before (December 12-13) may offer a decent sprinkling of meteors as well. And you could try watching on December 14-15, if all else fails. The meteors tend to be few and far between at early evening, but intensify in number as evening deepens into late night. Don’t let the late-night moonlight discourage you from watching after midnight, or during the peak viewing hours. Geminid meteors are bright!

Ten things you might not know about space

Image credit: UltraVISTA/Terapix/CNRS/CASU

Image credit: UltraVISTA/Terapix/CNRS/CASU

Ten oddities and misconceptions about space that you may – or may not – have heard before.

Burning questions about winter cold

Snowfall departure from normal October 2014, via Rutgers Snow Lab

Snowfall departure from normal October 2014, via Rutgers Snow Lab

Old Man Winter seems to have gone maverick in the Northern Hemisphere over the last few years. Take 2014 as an example. It’s on track to be the warmest globally in more than a century of record-keeping, with May, June, August, and September all setting world heat records for those particular months. Yet February only managed to tie for 21st warmest globally, mainly because of two regions of prolonged cold across North America and central Eurasia.

One of the highest resolution images of Mercury, ever

Mercury via MESSENGER

This image shows an area at 83.20 degrees North latitude and 267.80 degrees East longitude on Mercury. Resolution 10 meters. Image via NASA / JHU / APL MESSENGER spacecraft.

Here is the sun’s innermost planet, Mercury, imaged on September 15, 2014 by the MESSENGER spacecraft. This is of the highest resolution images of Mercury ever obtained. MESSENGER has been orbiting Mercury since 2011, but now the craft’s fuel is nearly depleted. It is slipping toward Mercury in orbit, and space engineers have been periodically boosting it higher. MESSENGER will impact Mercury in March 2015. For now, we’re getting some of the best-ever Mercury pics.

This date in science: Edwin Hubble and the expanding universe

This image is the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field, released in 2012.  Read more about this image here.

This is the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field, released in 2012. Nearly every speck of light here is a separate galaxy, beyond our Milky Way.

November 20, 1889. Happy birthday, Edwin Hubble! The Hubble Space Telescope is named for this astronomer. How did this honor come to be? Hubble’s work was pivotal in changing our entire cosmology: our idea of the universe as a whole.

Incredible lake-effect snow pounds Buffalo area, continuing today

Image Credit: Derek Gee via Twitter

Image via Derek Gee via Twitter

Lake-effect snow is nothing new for those north and east of Lakes Erie and Ontario. When it happens, snow totals climb over three to four feet (over a meter) in less than 24 hours. In isolated spots around the Buffalo, New York area this week, over five feet (1.5 meters!) of snow fell earlier this week, and a second round is happening and expected to continue through Friday.

Lifeform of the week: Carnivorous plants

Image Credit: Webbaliah

Image Credit: Webbaliah

Faced with lousy soil conditions, some plants came up with a novel solution – eating meat. They may look all stationary and defenseless, but don’t be fooled. Carnivorous plants would eat you if they had the chance.

Slow motion disaster continues at Kilauea

A home destroyed by the new lava flow at Kilauea. Image Credit: U.S. Geological Survey.

A home destroyed by the new lava flow at Kilauea. Image Credit: U.S. Geological Survey.

On November 3, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a disaster declaration for the area impacted by the Kilauea lava flow. The new lava has been slowly making its way across the Big Island of Hawaii since June 27. So far, the lava has destroyed one home.

This date in science: Surtsey and the birth of new islands

View larger. | The new-born island of Surtsey, off the coast of Iceland, on November 30, 1963.  Howell Williams captured this photo 16 days after the eruption that created Surtsey began.  Image via NOAA.

View larger. | The new-born island of Surtsey, off the coast of Iceland, on November 30, 1963, 16 days after the start of the eruption. Image via NOAA.

November 14 1963. On this date, a cook aboard a trawler called Ísleifur II – sailing south of Iceland – spotted a column of dark smoke rising from the surface of the sea. The ship’s captain thought it be a boat on fire and turned his vessel to investigate. What they found was an island in the process of being born: explosive volcanic eruptions originating from below the sea surface, belching black columns of ash. The new island was later named Surtsey, for Surtur, a fire jötunn (a mythological race of Norse giants). Click inside for its story.

Rosetta mission places Philae lander on its comet

The Philae lander has returned the first panoramic image from the surface of a comet. The view, unprocessed, shows a 360º view around the point of final touchdown. The three feet of Philae’s landing gear can be seen in some of the frames.  Superimposed on top of the image is a sketch of the Philae lander in the configuration the lander team currently believe it is in.   Image via ESA

First panoramic image from the surface of a comet. The view, unprocessed, shows a 360º view around the point of final touchdown of the Philae lander. The three feet of Philae’s landing gear can be seen in some of the frames. Superimposed on top of the panorama is a sketch of the Philae lander in the configuration the lander team currently believe it is in. Image via ESA

As of Thursday morning, November 13 – after initially failing to attach to the surface – Philae is now stable and is sending back pictures.