The Geminid meteor shower also known as the King of Meteor Showers makes a royal entrance tonight as the most-anticipated event of its kind reaches its peak between Dec. 13 and Dec 14.
NASA announced that the cosmic light show would be pretty spectacular as the Geminids can produce more than 100 meteors per hour at its peak and it can be seen from both hemispheres. On the space agency site, there is a page with five fun facts about the event. The page shows that this year’s meteor shower witnesses would be able to marvel at each of the bright ephemeral arcs for up to two seconds.
The event is the largest of its kind in the year so expect an extraordinary celestial show unless pollution or lights in your area prevent you from doing so. The Geminids are tiny rocky pieces called meteoroids of a now-defunct comet that pierce through our planet’s atmosphere and get lit up in the process as meteors.
Because this year’s event is unusually bright expect some colors to appear as well. Experts explained that the coloration would depend on the chemical composition of the space bits. Nevertheless, astronomers expect Gemindis to be colored in yellow, white and have hues of purple or blues.
Te comet that will generate the meteors tonight was dubbed Phaeton 3200, which was initially classified as an asteroid. In the meantime, astronomers learned that the ‘asteroid’ was in fact a dead comet. Defunct comets no longer have bright gaseous trails and move a lot slower than their live counterparts.
Because of the comet’s unusual orbit around the sun, the space rock gets hit by solar heat and, thus, spews a jet of dusty debris into the Geminid stream which is the most dense of the streams our planet passes through on an annual basis.
According to one theory, the comet was once part of an asteroid called Pallas, so the debris in the stream may originate when Phaeton emerged from Pallas in the asteroid belt.
But recent calculations of the comet’s orbits and meteor’s locations in the stream suggest that the tiny space rocks were ejected when the comet neared the sun, rather than when it was located in the remote asteroid belt, home to Pallas.
NASA also announced that U.S. stargazers may have difficulties in observing the stunning cosmic light show since weather forecast was not very positive for this weekend. But you can still have a look at the the event on the Slooh observatory website.
Image Source: Flickr