Readers will find that most of the stories published online about the Geminid meteror showers are bright and bubbly; however, following a three week barrage of earthquakes throughout the “Ring of Fire” area, circling the Marianas Trench, one might have reason for skepticism. Even at this very moment Guatemala is being barraged by a series of quakes. The Guardian Express has been monitoring seismic activity for more than three months and to put it mildly it doesn’t look normal. Perhaps the Geminid meteror shower will be as expected a fun event for star gazers and the curious wanna-be astrologist, nevertheless, it comes as the earth is experiencing unusual earthquakes and volcanic activity.
With that said, tonight the Geminid meteor shower will be viewed by many as NASA is hosting a live broadcast of the event.
While the Perseid meteors in August snare more media attention, Thursday’s Geminid meteors is usually unlike other meteor showers, where the parent is a frozen comet, this one traces lineage to a cosmic rock.
The scientific community has been hoping for clear skies all day so that all interested star gazers could get a clear glimpse at the spectacle. Interestingly there will be no need for telescopes, or binoculars, for this event can be clearly observed with the naked eye.
The best time will be between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.
The Geminids get their names since they appear to emanate from the constellation Gemini. The International Meteor Organization (IMO.net) predicts the zenithal hourly rate might be 120 meteors an hour, at peak. Persistent sky gazers may spot dozens in a dark location. Generally, though, you may be able to spy around 20.
Meteor mania: Alan MacRoberts, senior editor at Sky & Telescope magazine, explains that Geminid particles travel at 22 miles per second in the upper reaches of the atmosphere. The Naval Observatory’s Chester says the Geminids — when compared to Perseids — are relative slowpokes. You’ll see them streak through large regions of the night sky — sometimes leaving a faint smoke train from their passage, he says.
Periodically throughout each year, the Earth runs into streams of dust left behind by icy comets. When the Earth runs through these dirty trails, specks of dirt strike our atmosphere and burn up — giving us wonderful meteors. But, the Geminids’ dusty trail was not left by a traditional icy comet. Instead, these meteors came from an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon (pronounced fay-a-thon) — which was discovered in 1983 via the Infrared Astronomical Satellite, or IRAS.
A quarter-century later, UCLA astronomers David Jewitt and Jing Li, used NASA’s STEREO-A spacecraft to watch Phaethon as it toured near the sun in mid-June 2009. They observed Phaethon approaching the sun, and saw that the solar heat caused the object to brighten — and the rock was emitting particles. After their observations, Jewitt and Li now suggest “that Phaethon is essentially a rock comet.”
In other words, instead of dirty ice falling off a snowball-like comet, Phaethon throws off little specks of rock and this ejecta (through heat fracturing) leaves a trail in interplanetary space. (Source: “Activity in Geminid Parent (3200) Phaethon,” in the Astronomical Journal, Nov. 2010)
After Thursday’s major gift from the heavens, don’t fret. December has a stocking stuffer left. While small, the Ursid meteors peak during the morning of Dec. 22. It’s a tiny shower, where the zenithal hourly rate is predicted at 10 meteors, says the IMO. However, this shower has been known to surprise astronomers in recent years with dozens of meteors at peak.
As I was pinning this report a 4.7 quake hit Japan; another country in the heart of the “Ring of Fire.”
I don’t know about you, but it is a very uncomfortable time of the year. It’s not some much that I’m a superstitious end time’s fanatic; no that’s not the case at all. It’s just that I’ve been reporting on these earthquakes so long I found it quite alarming when I could keep up with them. In other words, they were happening so rapidly, one after another, I had to step back for a moment and reevaluate the situation. I became even more alarmed on news that a number of volcanos had begun to exhibit a dangerous state of unrest. Moreover, volcanic unrest reportedly occurred in regions throughout the globe.
So forgive me if I don’t sound exited over what has been reported as a spectacular show. Perhaps I will tune to the Geminid meteor shower, but if what I have reported continues, we may all be in for a spectacle that could include the entire human race. Something none of us are looking forward to.
Oh and by the way, another earthquake was just reported by the USGS in Turkey.