Welcome, welcome to the Web’s 180th spectacular Carnival of Space. You say you don’t know what this carnival is all about? Hosted by our illustrious ring-leader, Fraser Cain, you can head over to the Carnival homepage for the full details and archive.

Artist's impression of the red dwarf star CHRX 73 A and its companion object CHRX 73 B. The companion object is around 12 Jupiter masses, and may either be a planet or a brown dwarf. (Image credit: NASA, ESA and G. Bacon (STScI))

Artist's impression of the red dwarf star CHRX 73 A and its companion object CHRX 73 B. (Image credit: NASA, ESA and G. Bacon (STScI))

My God it’s full of stars! Three times more stars by astronomers’ count according to Brian Wang at Next Big Future. A better count of red dwarf stars finds 20 times more in elliptical galaxies. That boosts the estimates for the number of stars in the universe to 300 sextillion. Astronotes calls red dwarfs the most important stars in the universe.

Last week, the Web was awash in discussions about NASA’s cryptic press release that intimated an “astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.” Many bloggers speculated that perhaps life had been found on one of Saturn’s moons. That was not the case. Next Big Future takes us through the announcement that life can have arsenic instead of phosphate as a basic building block.

Next Big Future also offers speculation that a dark jupiter (or several) might lurk around the edge of the solar system.

Nancy Atkinson, at Universe Today, writes that researchers find that the tracks from the two Mars rovers are being erased by wind within a Martian year.

Paul Schenk offers us the first view of global topographic maps of Saturn’s icy moons.

Allen Versfeld, the Urban Astronomer, takes a look at the history of Neptune’s discovery, the mythology behind its name and a little bit of the science behind the planet.

When I was in grade school, one couldn’t help but notice that the orbital workshop Skylab looked similar to a stage of a Saturn V. David S. F. Portree, of Beyond Apollo, tells us about the non-propulsive roles of the S-IVB rocket stage in NASA’s manned program.

Space shuttle tiles installed on shuttle Atlantis (collectSPACE)

Space shuttle tiles installed on shuttle Atlantis (collectSPACE)

Want a baked piece of history? If you’re a school or university, Robert Pearlman of collectSpace, shares that NASA has started offering schools space shuttle tiles at a whopping $23.40 per tile (that’s just shipping and handling).

Moving a bit closer to home but farther back in time, Bruce Leeeowe, at Weird Sciences writes about a research article by Victor Babbitt in which Babbitt proposed that sulfur dioxide unleashed after a cometary impact may have caused the possible extinction of dinosaurs.

While Leeeowe talks of extinctions, astronomers are searching for life elsewhere in the universe. One new method, explains Weird Warp, is to seek sulfur dioxide signatures, and therefore volcanoes, on exoplanets. This leads us to AARTScope‘s story about ESO’s spectrophotometry announcement of a steamy or hazy “super-Earth” called GJ 1214b.

The dark circles show regions of the universe that are cooler than average. Could each ring provide information about what happened before the Big Bang? (V.G.Gurzadyan and R.Penrose)

The dark circles show regions of the universe that are cooler than average. (V.G.Gurzadyan and R.Penrose)

Last week also saw a fair number of stories about cosmology. Science is stranger than fiction according to Ian O’Neill at Discovery News. Scientists analyzing cosmic microwave background radiation claim they observe a pattern, says O’Neill. Francisco José Sevilla Lobato, in his Spanish-language blog Vega 0.0, writes about the impact of infrared observations in moderm cosmology.

The folks at the blog weareallinthegutter remind us in why supernovae are so important for cosmology in parts one and two at their website.

Need to take a break? Explore a new image of the Flame Nebula in Orion from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer at StarryCritters.

Steve Nerlich, of Cheap Astronomy, with help from some listeners, delivers a 2010 holiday season 365 days of Astronomy podcast on 21st century thinking.

We are lucky enough as Carnival readers to have a couple of bloggers who offer a far view of our exploration of space. Weird Sciences discusses the advantages of probes over conventional SETI beacons. Centauri Dreams explores the transition from interplanetary flight to interstellar journeys. Pulsar navigation is one way to find our way around and an interesting new paper discusses one way it might be done.

Cassini offers a view of Hyperion

By the way, this week is brought to you by the word parallax at AstroWoW. But the holiday season would not be complete without an iPod stocking stuffer idea from Bruce Irving at Music of the Spheres or advent calendars from Zooniverse, Big Picture and Planetary Society‘s Emily Lakdawalla. You won’t want to miss a single day.