Watch the Geminids meteor shower at Manila Observatory roof-deck on 12 Dec 2015

ateneophysicsnews_moonrise_solar_building_20150731

Blue moon rises over the Solar Building of Manila Observatory during the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola last 31 July 2015 (Photo by Quirino Sugon Jr)

by Quirino Sugon Jr

The Ateneo physics students’ organization LeaPs (League of Physicists) is organizing a stargazing event for the Geminids meteor shower,  which will be held at the roof-deck of the Main Building of Manila Observatory on Dec 12, 2015, starting at 8:00 pm.

The meteor shower was named the Geminids because the meteors appear to come from the constellation Gemini (The Twins). Actually, the meteor shower is due to asteroid 3200 Phaethon. This asteroid is a rock comet, i.e. unlike comets which outgas ice particles, a rock comet such as 3200 Phaethon asteroid outgasses grains of rock. When the asteroid gets too close to the sun at 0.14 AU or about 14% of the distance of the earth to the sun–the closest than other named asteroids–rock particles fly out from the asteroid like the flock of wild birds the Little Prince used to travel from one asteroid to another.

Some of the rock particles may indeed travel to other asteroids. Other rock particles may also travel to earth at speeds of 22 miles per second, which is equivalent to 35.4 km/s or 127,000 kph. For comparison, the speed of a bullet is 1,200 kph, the escape velocity of rockets is 40,000 kph, and the speed of the earth’s orbit around the sun is 100,000 kph. When the asteroid fragments hit the Earth’s atmosphere at the mind-boggling speed 127,000 kph, they encounter friction due to air molecules, so the fragments ignite like matchsticks and burn like fireworks in New Year’s Eve.

How many shooting stars can you see during the Geminids meteor shower? The Geminids peak during December 13-14 every year numbering at about 100 to 250. So if you wish to wish upon a star, this is your last chance before the year is over.

Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings

–Cassius, Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene 2.

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About ateneophysicsnews
Physics News and Features from Ateneo de Manila University

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