Every year on the night of December 13 to 14, a bright show can be seen in the sky – the Geminids meteor shower. But until now, scientists have not been able to determine exactly where these meteors come from. However, recent studies allow us to finally solve this mystery.
The study of the Geminids began back in 1862, when astronomer Albert Einstein noted this stream of meteors in his notes. But only now have scientists been able to identify the source of these meteors – it is the asteroid Phaeton.
Phaeton is a huge asteroid about 5 km long that is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. When it passes close to the Sun, the surface of the asteroid heats up to the point where it begins to evaporate. This evaporation creates a “tail,” which is made up of dust and gas particles. When the Earth passes through this tail, we observe Geminids.
But why does Phaeton create such a bright meteor shower? One theory is that Phaeton is a collapsed comet. When a comet approaches the Sun, it begins to vaporize, creating a “tail.” But if the comet gets too close to the Sun, it can collapse into pieces. This is what scientists believe happened to Phaeton.
Some scientists believe that Geminids may be related to asteroids 3200 Phaeton and 2005 UD. They are in the same area, and their orbits intersect with Earth’s orbit. When the Earth passes through this region, we see Geminids.
Interestingly, Geminids are one of the few meteor showers that are not associated with comets. Most meteor showers are formed from the remnants of comets, which leave behind “tails” of dust and gas.
In any case, the Geminids are a spectacular sight to behold every December. And now we know that these meteors come from the asteroid Phaeton.