2009 Geminids Shower

The 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 419 Geminid meteors collected between sunset on December 9 and sunrise on December 14. Since the images were collected over many hours, the radiant of the shower is not in a fixed location. Conditions this year were excellent, with no interference from the Moon and largely clear skies. 232 of the meteors in the image were collected on the peak night of December 13/14.

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

There are currently several active meteor showers. Removed from this composite were 33 Puppid-Velids, 46 Monocerotids, 12 Chi Orionids, 53 Sigma Hydrids, and 78 sporadics.

Shower Meteor Frequency

This graph plots the distribution of meteors over three evenings. The hourly rate represents a simple raw count of events, and hasn't been corrected for zenith angle or magnitude.