Welcome to the Carnival of Space #131; the greatest weekly collection of space-related blogs here on Earth and beyond! I’ll be your ringmaster for the week.

Last week was Thanksgiving here in the United States. With all the festivities, family time, trips to the science museum and indulging in the sweet stuff, I fell behind in keeping up with all the cool astronomy going on. So I’m thankful I have this traveling carnival to help me catch up and for the cheat sheet for chatting up astronomy over the dinner table provided by AliceAstro at AstroInfo. Had I done much socializing, I’m sure this primer would have come in handy.

If you’re visiting StarryCritters for the first time; Welcome! I am a science writer, web designer/developer and a JPL Solar System Ambassador. StarryCritters, a NASA Top Star winner, was created mainly to help children use their imaginations by creating stories from what they see in images taken by NASA’s Great Observatories, particularly Hubble Space Telescope. So explore the site and the universe through the amazing images. Use the tool to pan and zoom around the images. A button on the far right of the toolbar will cause the image to fill your screen with starry wonder. Feel free to play.

I’m looking at the calendar lamenting the fact that IYA 2009 has nearly run its course. Only 32 more days left to get in all that cool astronomy stuff. Astronomy never ends. What’s in store for IYA 2010? Five more shuttle flights, more auroras at Saturn, continued geyser watching on Enceladus, rooting for Spirit escaping the Martian sand trap, marveling over videos of fireballs, and more great discoveries by Spitzer and other great observatories.

At Bad Astronomy, Phil, dives deep, with alliteration, into the origin of bulgy galactic middles. You have to embiggenate the stunning images of Terzan5 from the European Southern Observatory. Or just zoom into one here.

Terzan5. Credit: ESO

Handing out the aforementioned helpful holiday chat tips is AstroInfo.

Wonder what Atlantis astronauts had for their turkey day meal in orbit? Maybe they bandied Alice’s tips about. Find out at CollectSpace.

Cheap Astronomy delivers a podcast about how the remaining space shuttle missions will finish building the ISS.

CumbrianSky shares the tale of a successful public star party. We should all have a few of these.

Fellow Jayhawk, AngryAstronomer, sets his eyes on tearing down Creationist goalposts with a discussion about a new paper on increasing “metallicity” in an aging universe.

Speculation on top of speculation at NextBigFuture. Dark Matter rockets and is the universe made to be optimized for black hole powered space travel?

If you’ve had your fill of Black Friday, Cyber Monday (who comes up with these names?) and college football, Music of the Spheres found some interesting online resources related to the final Hubble service mission that took place in May 2009.

“Climategate” is all over the news but you’ll want to read Ian O’Neill’s take DiscoveryNews.

Simostronomy catches up with legendary variable star observer Albert Jones in this in-depth “interbiew”. Jones is a powerhouse with more than 500,000 variable star measurements to his credit.

Want to make a run at that number in 2010? Algol Blinks guides first-time observers of variable stars.

Debunking 2012 madness this week falls to Steve’s Astro Corner. I’ll definitely be taking away the credit card of my teen if she falls for the 2012 hype. Right! She doesn’t get a credit card.

But hold on, we can move the Earth. WeirdWarp has the details.

Preheat at 90 for 15 minutes. Puzzled? Head over to ChandraBlog. Hint: it has nothing to do with climate change, collisions at the Large Hadron Collider, exploding suns or hurtling planets.

Einstein said God doesn’t play dice with the universe but UniverseToday tells how to play Galaxy Zoo’s latest game, Cosmic Mergers.

One of the possible micro-fossils as origianlly photographed.  © NASA

One of the possible micro-fossils as origianlly photographed. © NASA

And we’ll leave you pondering the renewed debate over the Allen Hills Meteorite (you know the one supposedly containing a fossilized Martian bacteria-like organism?) highlighted by Planetaria.