The Geminid Meteor Shower peaks Thursday and Friday this week. The rate of shooting stars in the sky could be up to 100 per hour. Kitt Peak is hosting a special Meteor Mania viewing celebration on Thursday night. From 10 AM to 3 PM join professional astronomers on the mountain and wish upon a shooting star.
Note: Rain and snow showers are forecasted to move into Arizona late Thursday night. Kitt Peak will make a 'weather call' on Thursday during the day as to whether or not the program will proceed as scheduled. If canceled by Kitt Peak, a full refund will be given to program ticket purchasers.
This meteor shower intrigues astronomers because the origins of the meteors is not fully known.
NASA says "Most meteor showers are caused by icy comets, which spew jets of meteoroids when they are heated by sunlight. The Geminids are different. The parent is not a comet but a weird rocky object named 3200 Phaethon. When 3200 Phaethon was discovered in 1983 by NASA's IRAS satellite, astronomers quickly realized that they had found the source of the Geminids. The orbit of 3200 Phaethon was such a close match to that of the Geminid debris stream, no other conclusion was possible. Yet here was a puzzler: Everything about 3200 Phaethon suggests it is an asteroid."
Phaethon is believed to have once been a part a lager asteroid.
"If 3200 Phaethon broke apart from asteroid Pallas, as some researchers believe, then Geminid meteoroids might be debris from the breakup," speculates Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office.
But then again Phaethon could just be a different kind of comet.
NASA says "A "rock comet" is a new kind of object being discussed by some astronomers. It is, essentially, an asteroid that comes very close to the sun--so close that solar heating scorches dusty debris right off its rocky surface. Rock comets could thus grow comet-like tails made of gravely debris that produce meteor showers on Earth."
Scientists are researching both possibilities closely.
Plus a new meteor shower may add to the excitement this week. For more details click here.