The Earth has been graced with several different meteor showers this year, but NASA astronomer Bill Cook’s favorite is the Geminid.
“The Geminid’s are my favorite,” he explains, “because they defy explanation.”
Normally, Comets create most meteor showers, but the Geminid is different. The Geminid Meteor Shower is not created by any Comet, but a strange rocky object named 3200 Phaethon.
“Of all the debris streams Earth passes through every year, the Geminids’ is by far the most massive,” says Cooke. “When we add up the amount of dust in the Geminid stream, it outweighs other streams by factors of 5 to 500.”
3200 Phaethon is thought to be a crumb chipped off of the asteroid Pallas, which is a 544 km wide asteroid orbiting in the main asteroid belt. When it was discovered in 1983 by NASA’s IRAS Satellite, it was classified initially as an asteroid, because it couldn’t be a comet because it didn’t meet the specifications; it had no tale, was colored similarly to an asteroid, and its orbit intersected the main asteroid belt.
“If 3200 Phaethon broke apart from asteroid Pallas, as some researchers believe, then Geminid meteoroids might be debris from that breakup,” speculates Cooke. “But that doesn’t agree with other things we know.”
The Geminid Meteor Shower is expected to produce up to 120 meteors per hour.
Watch this video about the Geminid Meteor Shower from NASA.gov
Article by Jim Donahue