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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