2010 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 402 Geminid meteors collected between sunset on December 10 and sunrise on December 15 (19, 31, 89, 229, and 39 meteors respectively). Since the images were collected over many hours, the radiant of the shower is not in a fixed location. Conditions this year were good, with little interference from the Moon and largely clear skies.

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. Recorded, but not shown in the composite, are 30 Puppid-Velids, 65 Monocerotids, 7 Chi Orionids, 49 Sigma Hydrids, and 94 sporadics.

Shower Meteor Frequency

This graph plots the distribution of meteors over five 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. The evening of December 15 was partly cloudy, so counts for that date are understated.