The Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver, or SPIRE instrument, riding aboard Herschel Space Observatory, launched in May by the European Space Agency, has provided one of the most detailed views yet of space up to 12 billion years back in time.

The December images have revealed thousands of newly discovered galaxies in their early stages of formation, said CU-Boulder Associate Professor Jason Glenn, a co-investigator on the project. The new images are being analyzed as part of the Herschel Multi-tiered Extragalactic Survey, or HerMES, which involves more than 100 astronomers from six countries.
To wrap up the year, I'm listing my 4 worst columns.  Or, at least, the four columns that got outstandingly terrible readership.  I searched for a pattern or justification for why people stayed away in droves, but darned if I can spot one.  If you've got any ideas on why some columns sink while others swim, feel free to speak up.
Here's a pleasant Christmas thought-- why are rocket launches like holidays-- infrequent, big productions that tend to always be the same?  A New York Times op-ed, Faster, NASA, Faster, puts forth an idea that, really, resurfaces at least once every few years.  It's a good idea.  It says, hey, let's do more launches with higher risk.
Stars in globular clusters tend to be 12-13 billion years old but a small fraction appear to be significantly younger than the average population.   Left behind by the stars that followed the normal path of stellar evolution and became red giants, those younger ones have been dubbed blue stragglers.

Oddly, blue stragglers appear to regress from 'old age' back to a hotter and brighter 'youth', gaining a new lease on life in the process - a cosmic facelift.
As 2009 closes, we can look at the state of sci-fi gaming.  You might wonder why a science site cares, and the answer is that science fiction is one of the best gateways to science careers.  For one generation of astronomers, pretty much, either you'd watched Star [Trek/Wars] or you got to peek through a telescope at the real thing.  Or both.
            Darkness. It has often been portrayed to us as a symbol of fear, evil or just plain emptiness. But surprisingly, darkness is also essential, especially when our universe is concerned. Everything that we can see – including ourselves – is part of “normal” matter. But there is also a dark side, composed of two things: dark matter and dark energy. Simply put, dark matter has influenced the history of the universe, and dark energy may decide the future of it.
Aside from Earth, Saturn's largest moon Titan looks to be the only place in the solar system with copious quantities of liquid (largely, liquid methane and ethane) sitting on its surface. But that's not the only similarity our home and Titan share. A team of planetary astronomers recently announced that the two share yet another feature, which is inextricably linked with that surface liquid: common fog.

The team discussed their findings in a recent paper published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters as well as in a presentation at the American Geophysical Union's 2009 Fall Meeting in San Francisco.
I'm forwarding on this call to action!  Over at Universe Today, editor Nancy Atkison announces:
Calling all podcasters! The award-winning 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is proud to announce the project will continue for another 365 days, and is now accepting sign-ups for participants for 2010
If you pod on astronomy, sign up!  If you're an astronomer (amateur or pro) and you don't podcast-- sign up.  Learn.  Deliver.
New images from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory show that the symmetry of supernova remnants, or lack thereof, reveal how the original stars exploded. Astronomers say the discovery is important because it will help them better classify supernovas that exploded hundreds or thousands of years ago. The discovery is reported in a new Astrophysical Journal Letters study.

Astronomers sort supernovas into several categories, or "types", based on properties observed days after the explosion and which reflect very different physical mechanisms that cause stars to explode.  But, since observed remnants of supernovas are leftover from explosions that
occurred long ago, other methods are needed to accurately classify the original supernovas.

This image of a tiny patch of sky reveals the oldest galaxies ever seen. Their light has traveled 13 billion years to the Hubble Space Telescope, stretched along the way from ultraviolet to near-infrared by the expanding universe. After this long wait, astronomers wasted no time, publishing 12 papers on the data in 3 months.  The beautiful color images were just released yesterday: