2012 Geminid Shower

2012 Geminid CompositeThe annual Geminid meteor shower occurs when debris from the asteroid 3200 Phaethon intercepts the Earth. This is an unusual type of shower in having an asteroidal, rather than cometary parent. However, evidence suggests that Phaethon is actually the rocky core of an evaporated comet. These meteors intercept the Earth at a fairly low speed of 35 km/s (79,000 mph). Because of this, Geminids tend to be slow and colorful- probably the prettiest of the major showers.

This is a composite image of 292 Geminid meteors collected between sunset on December 10 and sunrise on December 14 (four nights). Since the images were collected over many hours, the radiant of the shower is not in a fixed location. Conditions this year were generally excellent, with mostly clear skies and no lunar interference. A storm system did come in after midnight on the evening of the peak (December 13/14), which reduced the total number of meteors recorded.

Mouse over the image to see just the 113 Geminids captured on the peak night. Because these were all caught over just a few hours, the radiant did not move much, and is very obvious.

Long necklace-like trails on the image are the paths of stars and planets, circling the north celestial pole in the upper left.

This image contains only meteors identified as Geminids. Several other showers are currently active as well, including the Puppid-Velids, Monocerotids, Chi Orionids, and Sigma Hydrids.

Fireball videos:

This graph plots the distribution of meteors over four evenings. The hourly rate represents a simple raw count of events, and hasn't been corrected for zenith angle or magnitude. Scale the values shown by approximately three times to get the equivalent visual zenithal hourly rate.
2012 Geminid Distribution
This graph plots the distribution on the peak evening of December 13/14. Unfortunately, a winter snow system moved in after 1am MST (UT 08:00), preventing data from being recorded for half the night.
2012 Geminid Distribution

© Copyright 2012, Chris L Peterson. All rights reserved.