Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Geminid Meteor Shower Tonight

The best meteor shower of the year is on the way tonight.

From the folks at NASA:

The first Geminids appeared suddenly in 1862, surprising onlookers who saw dozens of meteors shoot out of the constellation Gemini. (That's how the shower gets its name, the Geminids.)

Astronomers immediately began looking for a comet. Meteor showers result from debris that boils off a comet when it passes close to the Sun. When Earth passes through the debris, we see a meteor shower.

For more than a hundred years astronomers searched in vain for the parent comet. Finally, in 1983, NASA's Infra-Red Astronomy Satellite (IRAS) spotted something. It was several kilometers wide and moved in about the same orbit as the Geminid meteoroids. Scientists named it 3200 Phaethon.

Just one problem: Meteor showers are supposed to come from comets, but 3200 Phaethon seems to be an asteroid. It is rocky (not icy, like a comet) and has no obvious tail. Officially, 3200 Phaethon is catalogued as a "PHA"—a potentially hazardous asteroid whose path misses Earth's orbit by only 2 million miles.


abbagirl74 said...

I probably will not be able to see it. Too bad.

austere said...

Big city lights and way too much pollution- not likely to see it.

latibug said...

I actually live out where I could have watched it, but I was asleep early last night. I guess the constant go, go, go has finally caught up with me.

That is a great picture. Did you take it or get it from somewhere?