posted on Dec, 15 2012 @ 04:52 PM
Originally posted by ScytheofTime
If I heard correctly there was also a comet tail the night of the Geminid shower, I saw streaks from 2 different directions, some heading East to
West, others heading NE to SW...it was the best display of meteors I've ever been witness to. I am in the Midwest USA and the skies were crystal
Most meteor showers are associated with a parent comet, but that comet is not necessarily anywhere close to the Earth during the time of the shower.
Instead, the Earth passes through a part of the comet's orbit. Comet's are dirty, and leave behind a bunch of dust and shall rocky debris as they
orbit -- so the entire orbital path of a comet is littered with this stuff. As Earth passes through during its trip around the Sun (passing through
the same spot in the solar system once per year) it passes through this area littered with comet debris. That's what causes a meteor shower.
Like I said, the comet does not need to be anywhere near the earth -- we are simply passing through a path left behind possibly years agao. For
example, the annual "Orionids" meteor shower that happens every October is associated with the dust of Halley's Comet, even though Halley's Comet
hasn't passed through the inner solar system in a long time -- the last time being 16 years ago.
However, interestingly enough, the Geminids is thought to be semi-unique in that the parent body associated with it is NOT a comet, but is instead an
asteroid -- namely Asteroid 3200 Phaeton (the Quadratids meteor shower in early January is another thought to be associated with an asteroid instead
of a comet). 3200 Phaeton does exhibit some characteristics of a comet, but it does not have a tail like a comet. Some refer to it as a
Asteroid 3200 Phaeton takes about a year and a half to obit the Sun. Right now, it is out beyond the orbit of Mars, but its orbit does bring it in
toward the Sun. Its orbit is littered which dust -- dust that the Earth is currently passing through, thus causing the meteor shower.