2010 Geminids

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This is a pretty good year for the best and most reliable meteor shower of nearly every year.

"It is told that when young Phaethon, born from the God Apollo and a mortal mother in Ethiopia, was given one wish by his father, he choose (sic) to ride the Sun chariot. Unable to handle the steeds, he scorched what is now the Sahara. To prevent more harm, he was shot down by Zeus. He fell to his end like a meteor...

Fred Whipple used this this story from Greek mythology to name the minor planet 3200 Phaethon, an asteroid like object"

{excerpt from "Meteor Showers and Their Parent Comets", Peter Jenniskens, 2006, Cambridge University Press}

The Geminids are unique in a number of ways. First, it was only first observed in the last 2 centuries (possiby as early as 1833, but for sure in 1861). Second, unlike all the other major showers whose meteors hit is nearly head on with high velocity (59-71 kps) it hits us from the side at a more moderate 35 km/s. Third, the parent body is classified as an asteroid, with a spectrum bluer than sunlight. It could be an extinct comet nucleus, de-iced by repeated passes at perihelion of 0.141 AU, making the surface at perihelion hot enough to melt the rocky surface, and sinter the ejected dust into more solid particles than the common meteor shower fluffy dustballs. Fourth, it is a shower visible from both hemispheres as the radiant is nearly above the equator. Finally, unlike all the other major showers, it is visible from dusk to dawn, instead of only the early morning hours.

It may be visible as early as Dec 1 (indicated from video data), but for anyone other than the meteor geek like me, the start date is shown as the 7th of Dec, with activity lasting until 17th. The peak this year is expected on the morning of Dec 14th, with the moon setting before midnight, and the radiant culminating at just about 2 AM local time. Good rates would be seen the mornings before and after, with lower rates the further you go from the peak.

Once the IMO brings up the live on-the-fly graph from real data, I'll link it to this thread. I hope that will be as early as Dec 1.

The radiant (not the best place to look, try 30-40 degrees away, 3-4 arm fully extended handwidths) where all the meteors will backward propogate to, is near rho-Gemini, the 4th magnitude star just to the right of Castor, the upper of the twins (in the N hemisphere; the lower in the S hemisphere).

There are several other minor showers (1-5/hr rates under very dark skies) The Monoceratids (radiant near the bottom square foot of Gemini), alpha Hydrids (near Hydra's head), December Leo Minorids (in Leo Minor), Coma Berenicids (near Leos tail), and the Antihelion radiant (near Gemini's curved foot) as well as in the southern hemisphere the Puppid-Velids all active in that time period.

Meteor Wayne
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