Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Geminid Meteors.

The Geminid Meteor Shower is expected to peak on 13-14 December this year (2013) with potentially up to 120 meteors per hour being visible in areas of the Northern Hemisphere with a clear sky, although with the shower occurring only a few days before the full Moon on 17 December, it is unlikely that many people will have a good view this year. The meteors appear to radiate from a point in the constellation of Gemini, hence their name.

The point of origin of the Geminid Meteors. StarDate.

Oddly for a meteor shower, the Geminids do not appear to be related to a comet, but instead are associated with an object called 3200 Phaethon, which is classed as an Apollo Asteroid (an asteroid with an orbit that crosses that of the Earth). 3200 Phaeton has a highly elliptical orbit, which takes it in as close as 0.14 Au (14% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun, more than twice as close as Mercury) and out as far as 2.4 AU (2.4 times as far from the Sun as the Earth or 1.6 times as far as Mars). 3200 Phaethon does not appear to produce any sort of halo (a cloud of material produced by the evaporation of gas ice from the surface of a comet, thought to be the source of most meteor showers); rather it appears dark in colour an is classed as a B-type Carbonaceous Asteroid, thought to have a surface covering of  anhydrous silicates, hydrated clay minerals, organic polymers, magnetite, and sulphides.

The orbit of 3200 Phaethon. JPL Small Body Database Browser.


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