Geminids: How Low Do They Go?

The Marshall Meteoroid Environment office put together the plot below showing the distribution of end heights of Geminids seen with our fireball camera network. 85% of Geminids burn up 40 to 55 miles above Earth’s surface and 15% get below 40 miles altitude.
Geminids penetrate deeper into the atmosphere than the Perseids because they are moving slower (78,000 mph for the Geminids compared to 130,000 mph for the Perseids) and are made up of denser material, owing to the fact that the Geminid parent body is rocky asteroid 3200 Phaethon and the Perseid parent is a comet yielding more fragile material.

This video shows meteors captured by a wide-field camera at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center on the night of December 12. There are 141 events; at least 77 of these are Geminids, based on their angular speed and direction of travel. Near the end of the movie, a couple of satellites are visible crossing the field of view.

For those of us sky watching for meteors , this means we have a good chance of viewing a Geminid meteor. Tonight, December 13, into the early morning of December 14 is the peak. Happy meteor watching!

Meteor Over Texas

This morning at 6:43 AM Central Standard Time, eyewitnesses across Texas and adjacent states saw a very bright fireball streaking across the sky, moving roughly east to west. It was also recorded by a NASA meteor camera in Mayhill, New Mexico some five hundred miles to the West, which is very unusual and testifies to the brightness of the event. This was not the re-entry of Kosmos 2251, which was destroyed in a collision with an Iridium satellite in February 2009; it is a meteor, most likely a fragment from the asteroid belt and not associated with the Geminid meteor shower. 

Preliminary results indicate that there are meteorites from this meteor on the ground north of Houston, Texas–analysis is currently underway to refine the impact area. If pieces are recovered, it will be the 13th meteorite fall recorded in the state since 1909, and the first since Ash Creek, which fell in February of 2009.

A video (in Windows Media format) of the fireball as recorded by the NASA camera in New Mexico is attached to this message. The Moon is the bright object at lower center; the fireball is on the horizon at left and is surrounded by a white box when the camera detects it. Up is north, and left is east in the video.



Hello, Neighbor!

Hello! Thanks for visiting our moon missions blog. We’re expanding the blog focus from two moon missions to relating information about the moon as “Our Nearest Neighbor.” New posts will focus on observations of the moon, ongoing studies of Apollo era data, flybys and investigations  from Discovery and Lunar Quest Missions — these observations and missions continue contributing to our knowledge base — in this space we will share what we persist to uncover about “our nearest neighbor.”

Apollo 8 image of the moon. (NASA)

Stay tuned as we continue to challenge the human spirit through exploration and discovery. Meanwhile, learn about some exciting and recent revelations about the moon’s Earth-like core: