Geminid Meteor Shower

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Recently, NASA's Parker Solar Probe mission has shed new light on the origin of the intense Geminid meteor shower.

About the Geminid Meteor Shower:

  • What it is? It peaks during mid-December each year and is considered to be one of the best and most reliable annual meteor showers.
  • Unlike most meteor showers that originate from comets, the Geminid stream appears to originate from an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon,
  • New findings
    • The new findings have perplexed scientists as asteroids are not typically influenced by the Sun's heat and should not leave behind a trail.
    • Phaethon is an asteroid, but as it flies by the Sun, it seems to have some kind of temperature-driven activity.
    • The Parker data indicates that a powerful event such as a high-speed collision or a gaseous explosion likely caused the creation of the Geminid stream.

Key facts about the 3200 Phaethon

  • It is classified as an asteroid - the first to be discovered via satellite.
  • It was discovered on Oct. 11, 1983, using the Infrared Astronomical Satellite, and named after the Greek myth of Phaethon, son of the sun god Helios, due to its close approach to Sun.
  • It is blue in colour, which is rare for an asteroid.
  • It orbits the sun every 524 days (1.43 years), coming as close as 0.14 astronomical units (AU) and reaching as far as 2.40 AU from the sun. 
  • Its orbit is highly elliptical. It completes a rotation on its axis every 3.60 hours.
  • It is about 3 kilometres in diameter, making it larger than 99% of asteroids.


Q1) What is an asteroid?

An asteroid is a relatively small chunk of rocky minerals that orbits the Sun, often described as a minor planet. When the orbiting object is larger, it's called a planetoid.

Source: Parker Solar Probe reveals the mysterious origin of Geminid meteor shower on Earth