What are meteors and meteoroids?
Rocks and dust particles from space that are about to collide with Earth’s atmosphere are called meteoroids. Those that enter and streak through the atmosphere are called meteors.
What causes a meteor shower?
Usually when comets, which are chunks of ice with lot of dust, come close to the sun, the ice melts and the dust and rocks are left behind along the orbit of the comet. If Earth, in its yearly motion around the Sun happens to pass through such a debris trail, they enter the Earth’s atmosphere with considerable speed and due to friction in the atmosphere, burns up and give rise to not only a single bright streak in the sky but numerous meteors, called meteor shower.
Named After Gemini
The Geminid meteor shower can be annually observed between December 4 and December 16, 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.
Where do they come from?
The Geminids are associated with the near-Earth object 3200 Phaethon, an asteroid that may have undergone a collision with another object in the distant past to produce the stream of particles that Earth runs into — creating the meteor shower.
The asteroid orbits the sun every 1.4 years. It occasionally comes close to Earth (at a safe distance) and also passes very close to the sun, inside of Mercury’s orbit and only 0.15 astronomical units from the sun. (An astronomical unit is the distance between the sun and the Earth: about 93 million miles or 150 million kilometers.)
Rocks in space that are about to collide with Earth’s atmosphere are called meteoroids. Those that streak through the atmosphere are called meteors, and if they reach the ground (which won’t happen with the Geminids, as the particles are too small to survive the trip) the rocks are called meteorites
The Geminids are considered one of the best meteor showers every year because the individual meteors are bright, and the peak can see meteors stream across the sky at rates as high as 120 meteors an hour. Under light-polluted skies, fewer meteors will be visible.
|Geminids meteor shower for Pune (Night between 12 December and 13 December)|