Monday, 13 December 2010

Meteor showers and the cosmic joy-rider

This was sent to me by Dave Molz of Cosmic Devices:

Geminid Meteor Shower on the Night of the 13th-14th December

Renowned for bright and colourful fireballs this will probably be this year's best meteor shower. The peak is just after sunrise on the 14th, but there will be shooting stars all night of the 13th. The later at night you can go out and see them the better the meteors will appear to radiate from the constellation Gemini.

The meteor shower is a bit of an enigma as explained here:

Geminind Meteor Shower Defies Explanation
http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2010/06dec_geminids/

Basically it says:

1. The dust stream the earth passes through that causes this meteor shower is 100X thicker than any other dust stream that causes meteor showers
2. This shower is not caused by the earth passing through the dust and debris from a comet which is how all the other meteor showers are caused
3. The dust and debris has strangely come from a normal asteroid called 3200 Phaethon

Dave added:

I've always had a soft spot for Phaethon - and only previously knew of his story because it was at his death that his best friend cried himself into a swan to become the great constellation Cygnus (the Northern Cross) and now I find out he's also related to this meteor shower.

Phaethon was the joy-riding demigod and the epithet on his tomb read:
"Here Pha√ęthon lies who drove the Sun-god's car.
Greatly he failed, but greatly he dared."
Basically, he stole the keys to Helios' chariot and while he tried to drive the Sun along its usual path across the sky it was a bit like a parrot riding a motorbike and it all went totally out of control.

Poseidon moaned as the seas froze then boiled, whole cities and civilisations were destroyed, Gaia complained of being scorched as the deserts of Africa were created.

With the danger of Earth being laid to waste and the heavens frazzled, Zeus let fly a cosmic stinger and struck Phaethon with a lightning bolt and he then crashed and burned into a river.

Phaethon was also associated as the Babylonian Morning Star or Lucifer (meaning The Light Bringer - as the Morning Star burned in the sky when all the other stars had gone and heralded the Sun rising).

The picture above shows Phaethon Stretched Canvas Poster Print, 18x24, available through Amazon.

Links
http://www.onbrightsky.co.uk/
Phaethon Stretched Canvas Poster Print, 18x24

1 comment:

James C. Wallace II said...

I'll be out tonight with camera in hand (actually on a tripod) to photograph yet another meteor shower. Should the results prove goos, I'll send you a copy.