Meteor Shower Told in Tweets

BY Jenny Marder  December 14, 2012 at 1:45 PM EST

Israelis in a hot water spring on the shore of the Dead Sea near the Israeli Kibbutz of Ein Gedi watch the sky for Geminid meteor streaks above the Judean desert on December 14, 2012. Photo by Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images.

Prepare to look skyward. Nature put on a dazzling light show early Friday morning, and many will have a chance to see another tonight. The Geminid meteor shower, which occurs every December, delivering as many as 80 meteors an hour, is thought to result from debris spewing from an asteroid-like object called 3200 Phaethon.

From NewsHour science correspondent Miles O’Brien and BoingBoing, here’s a guide on how to watch it, along with a primer from Astronomy Now.com‘s night sky consultant, Mark Armstrong.

“Geminids are streams of small particles, maybe dust or leftovers from a comet,” Armstrong says. “What happens with a comet is it orbits around the sun, and it leaves a stream behind it of dust — so small meteoroids. And meteor showers are commonly encountered every year.”

In case you missed it, here’s a look at what people have been snapping from their neighborhoods.

Want to watch him get drunk in a lab? We’ve got that video for you here:

  • NASA takes on the Mayan apocalypse. And not only won’t the world end on December 21st, the Mayans never said it would.

  • In 1868, Darwin designed an experiment to understand how humans interpret facial expressions, The Scientist reports. He used electric probes to shape participants’ faces into different emotions, and then assessed how others reacted to the various expressions. His question: were there expressions that were universally understood, from happiness to anger? And now that experiment — originally conducted on 20 people — is being replicated at the University of Cambridge with 18,000 Internet volunteers. And they’re reacting to Darwin’s original photographs. Scientists think the answers could guide research in areas such as facial recognition software and autism.

  • King crabs are crawling into warmer Antarctic waters and wreaking havoc on a rare and ancient ecosystem, according to this wonderful and vivid story in Nature.

  • The Air Force has said little about why it launched an experimental robotic space plane into orbit atop an Atlas V rocket on Tuesday for a classified mission that could last more than five months, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Jeremy Blackman, Patti Parson, David Pelcyger contributed to this report.