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Five Fun Facts for the 2015 Geminid Meteor Shower

Five Fun Facts for the 2015 Geminid Meteor Shower

The Geminid meteor shower peaks this weekend starting on Sunday, Dec. 13. Here are a few fun facts:

Fact #1:

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The Geminid meteor shower can be seen from both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Because they are pieces of an asteroid, Geminid meteoroids can penetrate deeper into Earth’s atmosphere than most other meteor showers, creating beautiful long arcs viewable for 1-2 seconds.

Fact #2:

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Geminids are pieces of debris from an object called 3200 Phaethon. It was long thought to be an asteroid, but is now classified as an extinct comet.

Phaethon’s eccentric orbit around the sun brings it well inside the orbit of Mercury every 1.4 years. Traveling this close to the sun blasts Phaethon with solar heat that may boil jets of dust into the Geminid stream. Of all the debris streams Earth passes through each year, the Geminid shower is the most massive. When we add up the amount of dust in this stream, it outweighs other streams by factors of 5 to 500.

Fact #3:

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Because they are usually bright, many people say Geminid meteors show color. In addition to glowing white, they have been described as appearing yellow, green, or blue.

Geminid meteoroids hit earth’s atmosphere traveling 78,000 mph or 35 km/s. That may sound fast, but it is actually somewhat slow compared to other meteor showers.

Fact #4:

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Geminids are named because the meteors seem to radiate from the constellation of Gemini. The shower lasts a couple of weeks, with meteors typically seen Dec. 4-17, peaking near Dec 13-14.

Fact #5:

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The Geminids started out as a relatively weak meteor shower when first discovered in the early 19th century. Over time, it has grown into the strongest annual shower, with theoretical rates above 120 meteors per hour.

Join In:

This Sunday, Dec. 13, our Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, will host a live tweet chat highlighting the 2015 Geminid meteor shower. This online, social event will occur 11 p.m. EST Dec. 13, until 3 a.m. EST on Dec. 14. To join the conversation and ask questions, use #askNASA or @NASA_Marshall.

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