One of the most spectacular events of shooting-stars, the Geminid meteor shower, is going to be at its peak on the night of December 13. This year it's going to be even better as the fading crescent moon would be suppressed and, perhaps, it will be the strongest meteor shower of 2017.
Geminid meteor shower this year would offer around 120 meteors an hour, predicts the International Meteor Organization. "If the conditions are right, and you can see the night sky, it is probably the best meteor shower of the year. So, grab some hot cocoa and get some sleeping bags," said the University of Maryland's doctoral student Beverly Thackeray, reported The Washington Post. Geminids are also well-known for generating fireballs, added Thackeray.
The shower is expected to start late in the evening on Wednesday and it will continue throughout the night. Since the weakening crescent moon won't rise in the sky until around 3:45 a.m., the sky will be dark enough to observe the shooting stars perfectly. Going to the suburbs would bring a more vivid view of the meteor shower, which will be originating from the Gemini constellation.
Viewers can get help from smartphone applications to identify the constellations and planets. For example, one can use Android app Sky Map or iOS app Sky Guide for the same.
The Geminid meteors are the results of (3200) Phaethon asteroid getting close to the sun and emitting dust after getting heated up. "When Earth runs into these rocks, they burn up," states the report.
The rocky asteroid Phaethon goes by Earth once in every 1.4 years. It will come closer to our planet Earth than ever before on December 16 and it won't come this close until 2092, said Matthew Knight, a researcher at the University of Maryland. The asteroid was first discovered by the scientists in 1983.
Reportedly, this asteroid is one of the B-type asteroids, which could possibly be similar to certain carbonaceous chondrites that may carry organic molecules, the materials for life. Scientists assume that some meteorites, after getting broken off from these asteroids, may have brought water to Earth. "That's a pretty profound thing in geology. It's one of the holy grails of planetary science — finding where water came from," informed Sam Crossley, a NASA Harriet Jenkins Fellow, who is also a doctoral student in planetary geology at Maryland University.
As Thackeray said, Jupiter's immense gravity pool is dragging the dusty trail of Phaethon asteroid towards the path of Earth. "Jupiter is pulling things, like it always does. Jupiter is the ruler of the solar system. It's the reason we have an asteroid belt to begin with. That's why a planet didn't accrete (coalesce) in the asteroid belt, because Jupiter wouldn't allow that to happen," she said.
Hopefully, the largest planet in our solar system will continue to pull the asteroid's trail more in the future. "I hope this meteor shower continues to get more spectacular over time," said Thackeray.