Geminids 2010 | Meteoroid | Outer Space

Dec. 6, 2010: The Geminid meteor shower, which peaks this year on Dec.

13th and 14th, is the most
intense meteor shower of the year. It lasts for days, is rich in fireballs, and can be seen from almost any
point on Earth.

A Geminid fireball explodes over the Mojave Desert in 2009. Credit: Wally Pacholka / AstroPics.com / TWAN.
It's also NASA astronomer Bill Cooke's favorite meteor shower²but not for any of the reasons listed
above.
"The Geminids are my favorite," he explains, "because they defy explanation."
Most meteor showers come from comets, which spew ample meteoroids for a night of 'shooting stars.'
The Geminids are different. The parent is not a comet but a weird rocky object named 3200 Phaethon
that sheds very little dusty debris²not nearly enough to explain the Geminids.
"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."
This makes the Geminids the 900-lb gorilla of meteor showers. Yet 3200 Phaethon is more of a 98-lb
weakling.
3200 Phaethon was discovered in 1983 by NASA's IRAS satellite and promptly classified as an asteroid.
What else could it be? It did not have a tail; its orbit intersected the main asteroid belt; and its colors
strongly resembled that of other asteroids. Indeed, 3200 Phaethon resembles main belt asteroid Pallas
so much, it might be a 5-kilometer chip off that 544 km block.

An artist's concept of an impact event on Pallas. Credit: B. E. Schmidt and S. C. Radcliffe of UCLA. [larger image]
"If 3200 Phaethon broke apart from asteroid Pallas, as some researchers believe, then Geminid
meteoroids might be debris from the breakup," speculates Cooke. "But that doesn't agree with other
things we know."
Researchers have looked carefully at the orbits of Geminid meteoroids and concluded that they were
ejected from 3200 Phaethon when Phaethon was close to the sun²not when it was out in the asteroid
belt breaking up with Pallas. The eccentric orbit of 3200 Phaethon brings it well inside the orbit of Mercury
every 1.4 years. The rocky body thus receives a regular blast of solar heating that might boil jets of dust
into the Geminid stream.
Could this be the answer?

The path of 3200 Phaethon through STEREO's HI-1A coronagraph camera. False-color green and blue streamers
come from the sun. [more]
To test the hypothesis, researchers turned to NASA's twin STEREO spacecraft, which are designed to
study solar activity. Coronagraphs onboard STEREO can detect sungrazing asteroids and comets, and in
June 2009 they detected 3200 Phaethon only 15 solar diameters from the sun's surface.
What happened next surprised UCLA planetary scientists David Jewitt and Jing Li, who analyzed the
data. "3200 Phaethon unexpectedly brightened by a factor of two," they wrote. "The most likely
explanation is that Phaethon ejected dust, perhaps in response to a break-down of surface rocks (through
thermal fracture and decomposition cracking of hydrated minerals) in the intense heat of the Sun."
Jewett and Li's "rock comet" hypothesis is compelling, but they point out a problem: The amount of dust
3200 Phaethon ejected during its 2009 sun-encounter added a mere 0.01% to the mass of the Geminid
debris stream²not nearly enough to keep the stream replenished over time. Perhaps the rock comet was
more active in the past «?
"We just don't know," says Cooke. "Every new thing we learn about the Geminids seems to deepen the
mystery."
This month Earth will pass through the Geminid debris stream, producing as many as 120 meteors per
hour over dark-sky sites. The best time to look is probably between local midnight and sunrise on
Tuesday, Dec. 14th, when the Moon is low and the constellation Gemini is high overhead, spitting bright
Geminids across a sparkling starry sky.
Bundle up, go outside, and savor the mystery.






Geminid ¯ļ+| Ł¯|¯, ¯Ąƨ¯"Ƭ ¯¬ ¬|¯ ƨ¯¬ ¯¯ 13 ƨ¯¬ ¯¯ ¨¯ 14 ¬Ʃ ¬¯¬Ā ¯|Ŕ ¬|¯ +Ā ¯ļ+| Ł¯|¯ ¯ā . "¯ ƨ¯¯ +Ā
ƨ¯¯ ¯¯¯| ¯ā , fireballs ¬Ɯ ¬¬ Ŷ ¯ā , ¨¯ ¯¯¬¯ ¯ IJ¬| ¯¯ ƨ+¬| ¬| ƨ¯ ¯ ¬Ā ¯Ā U| ¯| ¬+¯| ¯ā .


2009 ¬Ɯ Mojave ¯Ā ¯¯ƚ +Ā ¯¯¯ ¯+ Geminid ¨¯ +| ¯Ą¯| +¯ ¯|¯¯|.ŃĀ ƨ¯¯: ¬ā ¯| / Twan /
AstroPics.com Pacholka.
"¯ ¬| ¯|¬| +Ā U¯Ą¯ ƨ¬ŭ|¯| ƨ¯¯ Cooke ¯¬ ¯|¯| ¯ļ+| ¯ąU|¯ ¯ā , ¯Ā ƨ+¯ +Ā ƨ¯¯ ¯¯¯Ąū +|¯TƬ ¬Ā +Ą¯ ¬| ¯¯Ʃ.
", Geminids ¬Ā ¯| ¯¬ ¯|¯| +¯ ¯¯Ā ¯Ɵ " ¬Ā ¯¯|¯Ā ¯Ɵ , "Ĩ"Ƭƨ+ ¬Ā ƨ¬¬¯T ¯U| ¯| ¬+¯|."
¨ƨ«+| ¯ ¯ļ+| « ¬+Ā ¯ ¬Ā ¨¯ ¬¯|ƚ , ƨ¯¯¬Ɯ ¬Ā ¯+ ¯|¯ +Ā ƨ¯¯ ¯"|ƚ ĵ¯ meteoroids ¬¬¯ '+| ¯ ƨ¯ ¯
¯|¯Ā .' Geminids ¨¯¯ ¯Ɵ . ¬|¯| ƨ¯¯| +Ā ¯+ « ¬+Ā ¯ ¯Ā ƨ+¯ ¯+ ¨¯|¯ ¯Ů|¯| 3200 Phaethon ¯|ƨ¬¯ ¯ŵĀ Ŀ" "¯ ¯ā
ƨ+ ¯Ā ¯ ¯¯Ʃ ¯ā ¯¯ ¯ +¬ « ¯ ¬¯¯Ā +Ą Geminids ¬¬"| ¯¯¬¯ ¯"|ƚ ĵ¯ ¯¯Ʃ ¯ā .
", +Ā ¬¬| ¬¯¯Ā «|¯|¨ «¯¯| ¯¯ ¬|¯ +Ā ¬|ij"¬ ¬Ā ¯ ¯¯¯| ¯ā , Geminids '¨¯ ¯+ +Ā ¬¯¬Ā ¯ĐĀ ¯ā ¬|¯Ā ¯¯ +¯ ¯¯| ¯ā "
Cooke +¯¯Ā ¯Ɵ ."¯¯ ¯¬ Geminid «|¯| ¬Ɯ « ¯ +| ¬|Ŋ| +Ą ¯ĄĐ¯Ā +Ā ƨ¯¯, "¯ outweighs 5 500 +Ā +|¯+Ƭ Ż|¯|
¨Ĵ" «|¯|¨ ."
¯¬ ¯ļ+| ¬ |ŀ¯ +| 900 ¯Ư¯ ¯ĄƧ¯ļ¯| Geminids ¯¯|¯| ¯ā . 3200 ¨¬| ¯+ Phaethon ¯+ 98 ¯Ư¯ +¬ďĄ¯ ¬Ā
¨ƨ«+ ¯ā .
3200 Phaethon 1983 ¬Ɯ ¯|¬| IRAS ¯¯Ņ¯ Ż|¯| +| UĄ¯ +| «| ¨¯ ¯ ¯ ¯ ¯+ UĄ¯| ¯|¯| +Ā ƀ¯ ¬Ɯ
¬¯ƪ+ ¯. ¨¯ Ĩ"| ¯Ą ¬+¯| ¯ā ? "¯ ¯+ ¯ U ¯¯Ʃ «|, ¨¯¯| +Ŭ| ¬ ĩ" Ŭ ŌŅ¯ ¯Ā ļ¯ intersected, ¨¯ ¯¬+Ā ¯ ¯
¯Ą¯¯|¯ ¨Ĵ" Ŭ ŌŅ¯Ƭ +| ƨ+ ¯ā ¬Ā ¯¯¯Ā «Ā . ¯¯¨¬¯, 3200 Phaethon ¯ā ¬| ƨ¯U¯| ¬ ĩ" ¯Ā ļ¯ Pallas ¯¯¯| UĄ¯|
¯|¯|, "¯ ¯ā ƨ+ 544 ƨ+¬| ¯ ¯ ¯+ ķ¯Ă+ 5 ƨ+¯Ą¬|¯¯ ƨ¯¯ ¯Ą ¬+¯| ¯ā .





"¨¯¯ 3200 Phaethon UĄ¯| ¯|¯| Pallas ¬Ā , ¯ā ¬| ƨ+ + U ¯Ą«+¯|ƚ ¨ +| ¬|¯¯| ¯ā , ¨¯¯ ¯ĄĐ ƨ¯"| ¯Ą
Geminid meteoroids ¬¯¯Ā ¯Ą¯¬|¯ ¬Ā ¯Ą ¬+¯| ¯ā " Cooke speculates. "¯Ā ƨ+¯ ¯ā ƨ+ ¨Ĵ" ¯|¯Ƭ ¬Ā ¬¯¬¯
¯¯Ʃ ¯ā ¯¬ ¯|¯¯Ā ¯Ɵ ."
¯Ą«+¯|ƚ ¨ ij"|¯ Geminid meteoroids +| +Ŭ|¨ ¯¯ ij"|¯ ƨ¯"| ¯ā ¨¯ +¯| ƨ+ ¬Ā 3200 Phaethon ¬Ā ¨¯¯
¯Ą ¯¯ ¯¯ Phaethon +Ā +¯|¯ «| « ¯ ¬Ɯ ¯¯Ʃ ¯ā ¯¯ ¬¯ UĄ¯| ¯|¯| Pallas +Ā ¬|« ¯ ¯ ¯Ā ļ¯ ¬Ɯ ¯|¯¯ ¯"| «|. 3200
Phaethon +| ƨ¬¯ŬT +Ŭ| "¯ ¯ « +Ā ¯¯ ¬|¯ 1.4 +Ŭ| +Ā ¨ ¯¯ ¨ĬU| ¯¯¯ ¬Ā ¯Ā ¯ +¯¯| ¯ā . ¯Ă+| ¯¯|¯ ¯¬ ŏ+|¯
¬ą¯ ¯|ƨ¯ ¯ +| ¯+ ƨ¯"ƨ¬¯ ƨ¬Ł+Ą¯ ŏ|ĵ¯ +¯¯| ¯ā ƨ+ Geminid «|¯| ¬Ɯ +ĄĐ| ¯Ą ¬+¯| ¯ā « ¯ +Ā ¯Ā ¯ ƨ¬¬|¯Ƭ.
¯¬ ¬+| ¯¬|¯ ¯Ą ¬+¯| ¯ā ?
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go outside. Dec. Could this be the answer? The path of 3200 Phaethon through STEREO's HI-1A coronagraph camera." This month Earth will pass through the Geminid debris stream. The best time to look is probably between local midnight and sunrise on Tuesday.An artist's concept of an impact event on Pallas. producing as many as 120 meteors per hour over dark-sky sites. then Geminid meteoroids might be debris from the breakup. Bundle up. and savor the mystery. spitting bright Geminids across a sparkling starry sky. The rocky body thus receives a regular blast of solar heating that might boil jets of dust into the Geminid stream. but they point out a problem: The amount of dust 3200 Phaethon ejected during its 2009 sun-encounter added a mere 0. as some researchers believe. "But that doesn't agree with other things we know.01% to the mass of the Geminid debris stream²not nearly enough to keep the stream replenished over time. [more] To test the hypothesis. "Every new thing we learn about the Geminids seems to deepen the mystery. researchers turned to NASA's twin STEREO spacecraft. Coronagraphs onboard STEREO can detect sungrazing asteroids and comets." Jewett and Li's "rock comet" hypothesis is compelling. and in June 2009 they detected 3200 Phaethon only 15 solar diameters from the sun's surface. which are designed to study solar activity." speculates Cooke." says Cooke. 14th. perhaps in response to a break-down of surface rocks (through thermal fracture and decomposition cracking of hydrated minerals) in the intense heat of the Sun. . What happened next surprised UCLA planetary scientists David Jewitt and Jing Li. "The most likely explanation is that Phaethon ejected dust. Credit: B. "3200 Phaethon unexpectedly brightened by a factor of two." they wrote. Schmidt and S. Radcliffe of UCLA. Perhaps the rock comet was more active in the past «? "We just don't know.4 years. when the Moon is low and the constellation Gemini is high overhead. C." Researchers have looked carefully at the orbits of Geminid meteoroids and concluded that they were ejected from 3200 Phaethon when Phaethon was close to the sun²not when it was out in the asteroid belt breaking up with Pallas. E. False-color green and blue streamers come from the sun. The eccentric orbit of 3200 Phaethon brings it well inside the orbit of Mercury every 1. [larger image] "If 3200 Phaethon broke apart from asteroid Pallas. who analyzed the data.

' Geminids ÃîÕ ô. ë÷â÷ çâ÷ Ó ÍÓ åûëÓâú î Óæ ÍÓ ÃÚùé Ø ÷æù 3200 Phaethon æ÷ ëâ Ç ì ìô ô Ó ñß æô ô éôú â Óë åûî ëîé Ó Geminids óëÛ÷ îÕêÕ çì÷ â æô ô. ìô äæ Ó îÍ íôâ÷ ô. ßÝ: ðîù / Twan / AstroPics. î Óæ Ó îÍ Ççí Ó÷íá ó Ó Æ êù æô . Úæë ó ÍÓ í÷â Ó îÍ çì÷ â meteoroids ðëæ 'Óù ñû ÝÁÕ â÷í. ". 2009 ë Mojave ßÚÝ Ó Èçí ÍÓ Geminid ÄÕ Ó÷ Õ î÷ èÝ Ú÷ÍÕ÷.Geminid Ç Ó÷ æ÷æ. Ó óêù ëîé å÷í÷ÑÁ åíâù ôí ó÷î Ó ë÷ ìë ó ÕúÚíâ÷ ô. . fireballs ë óëü ô. 3200 Ãêù âÓ Phaethon ÍÓ 98 ç ß Óë í ó à åÓ ô."Úé ôë Geminid å÷í÷ ë åûî Óù ë÷ ÷ Ó Ú æ Ó îÍ." à åÓ÷Áñ Ç Ó÷ åûëÓâú ó ÄÍ ðò÷. " ì Ó ð ððíá íÔ÷ Ú÷ óÓâ÷.com Pacholka. Geminids 'Ãé âÓ Ó óéó é çë÷æ çí Óí íô÷ ô" Cooke Óôâ ô. ìô outweighs 5 500 Ó Ó÷íÓ ÷í÷ à ì å÷í÷ÑÁ. äíÃóî. ìô êù æ÷ó÷ Ó ÔÕ î ð ÷æù éî Cooke çóÁäùä÷ Ç Ó÷ é Ù÷í ô. ". Òí ÇóÓ íÁÕ À Ú íä÷í à ì ú ô Óù Ó Úó îÕâ ã." Åó Ç Ó÷ ðüø Ý Ó÷ 900 ç ß Õ í î÷ Geminids éæ÷â÷ ô. ìô ô Ó 544 Óëù äûí ÍÓ î Ó 5 Óî ëùÝí Øç ô óÓâ÷ ô. Òí ì÷ ô óÓâ÷ ô? ìô ÍÓ çûÙ æô ã÷. 3200 Phaethon Úó÷ äÔâ÷ ëú ì é Ý Pallas Åâæ÷ Ù Ý÷ â÷í÷. Geminids ëí÷ çóÁäùä÷ Óí íô ô" ð éâ÷â ô. Ãçæù Ó ÷ ëú ì ú ô é Ý intersected. 3200 Phaethon 1983 ë æ÷ó÷ IRAS Çç ô ÷í÷ Óù Ô Ú Óù ãù Òí âúíÁâ ÍÓ Ù Ý÷ â÷í÷ Ó ç ë ðÕ Óü â. Òí îÕêÕ çü ðù çí Óóù êù éÁä ú ó äÔ÷ Ú÷ óÓâ÷ ô. Ø Ýì Åó ó÷î Úó çí 13 äóÁéí Òí 14 ð óéó âù ó÷î Ó Ç Ó÷ æ÷æ ô.

. Åó óÓ÷ Úð÷é ô óÓâ÷ ô? . "." ñ åÓâ÷ÑÁ ì÷æ Geminid meteoroids Óù Ó ÷ÑÁ çí ì÷æ äì÷ ô Òí Óô÷ Ó ð 3200 Phaethon ó ÃîÕ ô ÕÍ Úé Phaethon Ó Óíùé ã÷ åûç ë æô ô Úé ðô Ù Ý÷ â÷í÷ Pallas Ó ó÷ã Ýû Ý é Ý ë é÷ôí Õì÷ ã÷. 3200 Phaethon " . . Phaethon ( . 3200 Phaethon Jewitt Jing ."ÃÕí 3200 Phaethon Ù Ý÷ â÷í÷ Pallas ó. Coronagraphs sungrazing 15 UCLA . Úó÷ Ó Óú Ù ñ åÓâ÷ÑÁ Ó÷ ë÷ææ÷ ô. 2009 2009 ." ." : " 3200 Phaethon Geminid . í Óù ñíùí Åó Ó÷í ó í ôù ÝÁÕ Ó÷ ÍÓ æì ëâ ð è Ý ÷ â Óíâ÷ ô Ó Geminid å÷í÷ ë è ÷ ô óÓâ÷ ô åûî Ó ÚÝ ðë÷æ . ÃîÕ â äì÷ â Geminid meteoroids ëîé Õ îë÷î ó ô óÓâ÷ ô" Cooke speculates. ) Jewett . 3200 Phaethon Óù ðî á Ó ÷ ìô éúå Ó ôí ó÷î 1.4 Ó ÷ Ó ÃÁäí à Ùù âíô ó çñ Óíâù ô. "î Óæ ô Ó Ã ì é÷â ó óôëâ æô ô ôë Ú÷æâ ô." .

. Geminids . 120 meteors Geminids .0. 14 . . . " " Cooke Geminid .01% .. ." .? ." . . . .

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