In December, astronomy enthusiasts have the final chance this year to witness “falling stars,” or meteor showers. The prominent ones include the Geminids, a rather unique meteor shower originating from an asteroid, not a comet.
“Falling stars” are meteors, tiny particles hurtling through space at immense cosmic speeds, reaching tens of kilometers per second. Typically, comets, navigating among planets while orbiting the Sun, serve as the source of these meteors. When Earth intersects with such a meteor shower, we observe the phenomenon of “falling stars.”
However, the Geminids, observable from December 4 to 17, have a distinct origin as they stem from the asteroid Phaethon. According to Damian Jabłeka, the deputy director of the Silesian Planetarium, there are only two meteor showers associated with asteroid activity throughout the year, the other being the January Quadrantids.
“Phaethon is an asteroid exhibiting cometary activity. While comets are frozen ice and dust, an asteroid is a rock. Despite this, particles emerge from its interior or surface, lingering in outer space,” describes Jabłeka.