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The Geminids Meteor Shower One of the brightest in the sky

The Geminids were first spotted in 1861, and have recurred (with varying intensity) every year thereafter. Originally considered an anomaly, because they weren’t associated with a comet (as was demonstrated with the Perseids), the Gemenids were eventually linked to a near earth object called 3200 Phaethon. 3200 Phaethon has a very comet-like eccentric orbit with a period of 1.41 years, and current thinking is that Phaethon is the desiccated husk of a comet that’s lost all of its volatiles from close passes to the Sun (it gets to half the distance Mercury does at periastron.)

To spot the Geminids, look about half a degree north of Castor and Pollux in the sky, the shoulders of the Twins, and you’ll see shooting stars moving rapidly across the sky as fragments of dust and a few pebbles burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. At its peak, the Geminids will produce anywhere from 100 to 140 “shooting stars” per hour. Of course meteors have nothing to do with stars, and this meteor shower was discovered over 100 years ago.


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