The Geminids

December 16, 2018

I had been looking forward to the Geminid meteor, shower, (my favorite) for some months. As usual, I checked the weather report every day. On the peak night, cloudy conditions were predicted, so I decided to go the night before, on the 13th. I drove to Hoshinomura, (Village of the Stars) where the skies are quite dark, and set up the camera on the edge of a large  green tea field up on the side of a mountain with a clear view of the eastern skies. It was a windless night, and quite cold with frost on the ground. There were a few clouds floating by, but for the most part, the skies were good for photography. At around 4 am, after 3 hours of photography, I was thinking about packing up and leaving.  But then the stars Spica and Arcturus suddenly appeared on the horizon, with Venus following close behind, so I decided to leave the camera going another 30 minutes. Occasionally, clouds would pass in front of Venus, making the planet appear larger, like a small moon. Up to that point, I had seen a few good meteors, and suspected I had captured some of them with the camera. Then, a rather large meteor, perhaps a small fireball you could say, shot by Venus, and the camera caught the close encounter! 

  Later, I submitted the photo to the IMO (International Meteor Organization) to verify it’s origin. Turns out it was not a Geminid, but of an unknown origin. That information makes it even more beautiful and precious to me. A gift from the heavens.



 The origin of the Geminids was unknown until 1983, when it was discovered that an unusual asteroid was their mother. All other meteor showers originated from comets. This makes the Geminids rather special, as they are composed of harder and more durable material, thus causing more fireballs and Earth Grazers. They also move more slowly compared to meteors in other showers. The asteroid/comet is called Phaethon, named after the son of the sun god Helios in Greek mythology. I have included a link if you are interested in learning more about this unusual asteroid.

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