Basic Astronomy

Geminids meteor shower

Geminids meteor shower is probably the most reliable meteor shower. Annual event of Geminids meteor shower take place on 13-14th December but some meteors will be visible between 6 to 19th December. Geminid meteor shower can produce 60 to 80 meteors per hour at its peak.

These meteors radiate from the constellation Gemini.

meteor shower
Animation of a short meteor (courtesy NASA).

What causes Geminids meteor shower?

Unlike the majority of other meteor showers, the origin of Geminids meteor shower is not linked with a comet. It originates due to an asteroid 3200 Phaeton. Our planet Earth crosses the orbital path of asteroid 3200 Phaethon in December every year. Asteroid 3200 Phaethon is a mysterious body which is also known as rock comet.

This small 5-kilometer (3-mile) wide asteroid comes extremely close to the Sun in periods of 1.43 years. The distance between Sun and 3200 Phaethon becomes around one third of Sun-Mercury distance at it's closest approach to Sun. At this point, due to extreme heat of Sun, this rocky body crack and crumble, and to shed rubble into its orbital stream. Every year in December, the debris from 3200 Phaethon crashes into Earth's upper atmosphere at some 130,000 kilometers (80,000 miles) per hour, to vaporize as colorful Geminid meteors.

How can you watch the show?

You should look towards constellation Gemini to view the show.

As always, if you can go far from the city, you will see better view of sky due to less light pollution. You may like to lie on a blanket in a park or rooftop to enjoy the show. It will also help you to have access of full view of the sky.

In 2016, the sky will be full of light since time full moon coincides with shower timing and so only bright meteors will be visible.

Related story

Meteor shower calendar

Orionid meteor shower 2012

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This site is © Copyright Basic Astro 2012-2017, All Rights Reserved.