Meteoroid Streams

Did Phaethon father the Geminids?

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Science  13 Jan 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6321, pp. 144-145
DOI: 10.1126/science.355.6321.144-e

The Geminids meteor shower may originate from an asteroid rather than a comet.

PHOTO: DAVID KINGHAM/FLICKR

Meteor showers are caused by Earth passing through a stream of debris left by a comet. The Geminids shower seems to originate from (3200) Phaethon, but that is an asteroid, not a comet, with an unusual elliptical orbit that takes it close to the Sun. Hui and Li examined images of Phaethon as it passed the Sun in August 2016, showing that it generated a small tail. Although this comet-like behavior could feed the meteor stream, the mass of material ejected is far too small. If Phaethon is indeed the origin of the Geminids, it must have been much more active in the recent past.

Astron. J. 153, 23 (2017).

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