The King of Meteor Showers Peaks this Weekend

December 11, 2014
Posted in
December 11, 2014 Þröstur Freyr Hauksson

The King of Meteor Showers Peaks this Weekend

The Geminids are considered to be one of the more spectacular meteor showers during a year, with the possibility of sighting around 120 meteors per hour at its peak. The meteor shower can be seen most easily in the Northern Hemisphere in areas with dark skies, away from city lights. You will want to view these meteors during the earlier part of the night as a quarter moon will rise around midnight. You can also expect fireball reports all over the world in the coming days.

The Geminids can be annually observed between December 4 and December 17, with its peak activity being around December 14. The shower owes its name to the constellation Gemini from where the meteors seem to emerge from in the sky.

Geminids are debris from an extinct comet called 3200 Phaethon, which was previously believed to be an asteroid, according to NASA. “Basically it is the rocky skeleton of a comet that lost its ice after too many close encounters with the sun,” NASA said on its website.

3200 Phaethon has a diameter of only 5.10 km (3.15 miles) and it takes it 1.4 years to orbit the Sun once. It is possible that Phaethon is a “dead comet” or a new kind of object being discussed by astronomers called a “rock comet.” Phaethon’s comet-like highly elliptical orbit around the Sun gives credence to this hypothesis. However, scientists are not certain how to define Phaethon because when it passes by the Sun it does not develop a cometary tail, and its spectra looks like a rocky asteroid.

Geminids are bright and fast meteors and they tend to be yellow in color. They are also known for their fireball meteors, larger explosions of light and color that can persist longer than an average meteor streak. This is due to the fact that fireballs originate from larger particles of material. Fireballs are also brighter, with magnitudes brighter than -3.