The month of December offers a couple of sky event that viewers can look forward to after the hype on Comet ISON's closest approach to the Sun last November 28. The 2013 Geminid Meteor Shower is set to light up the sky with a remarkable display beginning Tuesday, December 3, until it peaks on December 13 and 14.
The fast and bright Geminids always shoot out of the sky in mid-December every year with numerous spectators describing them as the "finest meteors of the year." According to the National Geographic report on the Geminid meteor shower, sky watchers can expect the slow increase of shooting stars with approximately 5 to 10 meteors visible per hour in the dark sky.
The Space Daily reports on the mystery of where the Geminids come from. Its orbit is occupied with a rocky asteroid identified as the 3200 Phaethon that NASA's IRAS satellite discovered in 1983. "It swoops by the sun every 1.4 years, much like a comet would, but it never sprouts a dusty tail to replenish the Geminids," the report reads.
Dave Jewitt of UCLA along with a group of astronomers utilized NASA's STEREO probes to have a good view and closely observe the 3200 Phaethon when it passes by the Sun. The observers suggest that the 3200 Phaethon is a rock comet.
"The tail gives incontrovertible evidence that Phaethon ejects dust," Mr Jewitt stated. His team believes as well that the thermal fracturing of the asteroid's crust launched the dust with the related desiccation fracturing process also playing a role.
Dozens of "rock comet meteors" are now expected to appear with the 2013 Geminid meteor shower every hour during its peak on Friday night, December 13, and Saturday, December 14. The Crestone Eagle report claims the slow and yellowish meteor shower peak will occur at approximately 11 p.m. MST on Friday.
The National Geographic further reported the other sky events that viewers can look forward to this December. From December 4 to 6, sky watchers can search for the waxing crescent Moon as it glides past planet Venus at sundown.
The sky display will be playing out in the low southwestern sky for approximately 30 minutes after local sunset. Moon and Venus will be appearing closest to one another on Thursday that only displays 6 degrees of separation which is over the width of the three middle fingers held at arm's length.
Spectators can still search the eastern horizon to catch a glimpse of the Comet ISON. The remains of the comet that survived its closest approach to the Sun may still be seen during the crack of dawn with the use of binoculars.
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