Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Geminid Meteor Shower Tonight!

One of the best meteor showers of the year the Geminids are expected to exhibit consistently prolific flashes of shooting stars in the night of 14 to 15 December 2010. Circa sixty to one hundred and twenty streaks of tiny particles that burn up fairly seventy kilometers high above earth’s surface as they slam through our atmosphere with speeds of approximately thirty five kilometers per hour could be admirably observed in the sky well after the down ( eastern sky) to dusk ( western sky). Since the streaming meteor shower seems to be emanating from a point alias radiant in the sky lying vividly near glittering star Castor (Kasturi) in the zodiacal constellation Gemini (twins), it is conventionally identified as famed Geminid Meteor Shower. The origin of this moderately swift Geminid Meteor Shower is linked to mysterious object called Phaethon-3200 that looks like cross between a weird asteroid and quaintly burned-out comet. Though the shower peaks at 4:45 PM on Tuesday, December 14, 2010, bright and colourful Geminids could begin as early as 8:30 PM local time, because the shower’s radiant rises fairly high (approx. 15 degrees) in the eastern sky from 8:30 PM onwards and traces the sky till the next morning.



Comets generally unleash streams of dusty debris as they approach the Sun. When earth, speeding around its orbit, crosses some of these streams, we see the stunning meteor showers or dazzling shooting stars. However the Geminid meteor shower results from broken fragments from oddly pseudo asteroid-comet Phaethon-3200 with mysterious composition, which possesses an extremely elliptical 1.4-year-long orbit around our Sun and it is described as dormant comet coated with thick layer of dust. It is bereft of the characteristic comet tail and its spectra indicate peculiar rocky surface. Meteors created as Phaethon-3200 advances toward the Sun are arguably much denser than those usually created by comets.

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