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Geminid meteor shower underway

geminid-meteor-shower-underway

NASA's network of all-sky meteor cameras reported 23 Geminid fireballs over the United States today. This sharp uptick in activity signals the official beginning of the 2013 Geminid meteor shower.

For the next 3 to 4 days, Earth will continue to pass through a stream of debris from rock comet 3200 Phaethon. This year's Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) is 120 meteors per hour.

The multiple cameras of NASA's fireball network are able to measure the orbits of Geminid meteoroids:

This plot shows the orbits of the 39 fireballs recorded so far this week. Image credit: NASA's fireball network

3200 Phaethon orbit diagram. Image credit: NASA JPL/SSD

The parent object of the Geminid shower, 3200 Phaethon, was discovered and photographed in 1983 by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite and has the appearances of a small Earth-crossing asteroid. This object does not exhibit the usual features of a comet such as the nebulous head and long tail and so was place among the asteroids. Most researchers believe that Phaethon is the burned-out remnant of a once-active comet.

Featured image: NASA

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One Comment

  1. Many of these meteor showers are suspicious to me. Too many of them show up right when the faster/denser solar wind associated with a coronal hole is due. If some of what we're seeing was ejected from the sun, that would explain any orbit later having a path that loops back very close to the sun. Maybe some of these showers, and some occasional bolides or strange boom material are from recent solar ejections. And maybe even a few of the comets once originated the same way?

    Most of us played with magnets and powdered iron or iron filings at some point when young. Sprinkle some on a piece of paper above a bar magnet and it tends to form lines. But move a paper clip back and forth near a magnet and the pull is smooth. The field isn't bunched up at those lines seen with powder. The reason is that the field actually changes when powder is present, tending to flow in paths through the higher permeability material. And that tends to make still more material bunch up where the filed has grown more intense. Essentially that's a flux rope. I believe that flux ropes cause some material from the sun to bunch up. And since coronal holes have relatively stron fields extending outwards, like the end of a bar magnet, material streaming out there already tend to be pulled along a path. A recent NASA Science post mentioned ejections that didn't go in a straight line. It looks like the followed the stream left behind from a coronal hole. Although the initial material goes straight out from the sun, as it moves out the sun is rotating making a spiral pattern. And that pattern tends to form a flux rope. That's why solar events on the western solar hemisphere (side spinning away from us) affect the earth more… there's more likely to be a magnetic connection spiraling back our way.
    Maybe someone can do some math modeling to see what speed and density solar ejected material would have to have to make it back and orbit? It's a fun theory to look at anyway.

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