3200 Phaethon – The source of the Geminid Meteor Shower

December 9, 2009 14:49 by scibuff

This image below is a 4 frame animation of the asteroid 3200 Phaethon by Charles Bell (MPC Code H47). Phaethon is an Apollo Asteroid discovered on October 11, 1983 by Simon Green and John K. Davies examining the data from Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS). Phaethon became the first asteroid discovered by a spacecraft.

4 frame animation of 3200 Phaethon - Credit: Charless Bell (MPC Code H47)

4 frame animation of 3200 Phaethon (the moving dot to the left of the cross) - Credit: Charles Bell (MPC Code H47)

One of Phaethon’s most remarkable distinctions is that it approaches the Sun closer than any other numbered asteroid; its perihelion is only 0.140 AU — less than half Mercury’s perihelion distance. It is a Mercury-, Venus-, Earth- and Mars-crosser.

Phaethon could be characterized as a comet, except it has been observed exhibiting a coma or tail. Soon after the discovery, Fred Whipple’s observation matched Phaethon’s orbital elements with the mean orbital elements of 19 Geminid meteors. Phaethon thus turned out to be the long-sought parent body of the Geminids meteor shower of mid-December

Unusual orbit of 3200 Phaethon takes it  out into the main asteroid belt beyond Mars, and very near to the scorching Sun inside of Mercury's orbit.

Unusual orbit of 3200 Phaethon takes it out into the main asteroid belt beyond Mars, and very near to the scorching Sun inside of Mercury's orbit.

Find out more about the origin of Geminid Meteor Shower in an article by Richard Fleet for Newbury AS.

… and don’t forget to lookup between December 12 and December 14 and join the worldwide Meteorwatch!

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