The enigma behind the Geminid Meteor shower unravelled | Tech News

The enigma behind the Geminid Meteor shower unravelled

NASA revealed intriguing insights on creation of Geminid meteor stream

| Updated on: Jun 24 2023, 20:37 IST
The parent body of the Geminids is a solid asteroid named 3200 Phaethon (Twitter)
The parent body of the Geminids is a solid asteroid named 3200 Phaethon (Twitter)

Recent findings have shed light on the mysterious origins of the annual Geminid meteor shower. In a NASA blog post on June 14, 2023, Desiree Apodaca from the Goddard Space Flight Center revealed intriguing insights suggesting that a high-speed collision or a gaseous explosion could be responsible for creating the Geminid meteor stream.

Unlike other meteor showers such as the Delta Aquariids or the Perseids, which are caused by debris from icy comets orbiting the sun, the Geminid meteors have a different source.For several decades, scientists have known that the parent body of the Geminids is not a fragile comet but a solid asteroid named 3200 Phaethon, as EarthSky reported. The behavior of Phaethon is peculiar.

While most asteroids do not exhibit such characteristics, Phaethon, as it passes by the sun, displays temperature-driven activity, adding to the mystery surrounding its ability to generate a meteor shower.

New evidence has emerged from the Parker Solar Probe, a mission focused on studying the sun from close proximity. During its orbit, the spacecraft encounters clouds of dust grains from asteroid Phaethon, resulting in high-speed impacts that create unique electrical signals known as plasma clouds. NASA explains that these impact clouds generate distinctive electrical signals that are detected by multiple sensors on the probe's FIELDS instrument, which measures electric and magnetic fields near the sun.

Utilizing data from the Parker Solar Probe, scientists conducted simulations of various formation scenarios for the Geminid meteor stream. Their observations indicated that the most fitting explanation for the phenomenon was a violent event, such as an impact with asteroid Phaethon or a sudden gas explosion. By analyzing the data, the researchers determined that the violent scenario best aligned with their observations.

In summary, the Parker Solar Probe's data has played a crucial role in unraveling the enigma behind the Geminid meteor shower. It suggests that a violent event on asteroid Phaethon is the most probable cause of this spectacular celestial event.

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First Published Date: 24 Jun, 20:36 IST