Geminid Meteor Shower 2010: December 13-14
Gemenid Meteor Shower Peaks December 13-14, 2010
The Gemenid meteor shower will wow stargazers on December 13 and 14, when the debris shed by 3200 Phaethon enters Earth's atmosphere, creating a swarm of shooting stars.
What's weird about the Geminids, though, is that astronomers don't understand why there are so many of them: 3200 Phaethon doesn't shed enough debris to explain the sheer number of shooting stars in the Geminid meteor shower: up to 160 per minute.
Here's a sky map of where to look for the Gemenid meteor shower, via Space.com. Dress warmly.
"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 gorilla of meteor showers. Yet 3200 Phaethon is more of a weakling.
3200 Phaethon was discovered in 1983 by NASA's IRAS satellite and promptly classified as an asteroid.
After all, scientists thought, what else could the space object be? It did not have a tail, its orbit intersected the main asteroid belt and its colors strongly resembled that of other asteroids. In fact, 3200 Phaethon resembles main belt asteroid Pallas so much, it might be a small chip off that massive block, NASA officials said.
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