It’s that time of the year when sky gazers are in for a colourful treat, as the debris trail of the Phaethon asteroid becomes visible on Earth.
Named after the Gemini constellation, where the meteors are believed to be originating, the Geminid meteor shower is also called the “rock comet”. They are however not one comet, but the fragments of an unusual asteroid called Phaethon 3200, named after the Greek god Apollo’s son.
The orbit of Phaethon brings it closer to the Sun (within 6.4 million miles) between December 4-16 every year. “Today’s slideshow Doodle follows the Geminids’ path through Earth’s atmosphere as it lights up the sky,” said Google in a blog post.
Phaethon’s debris trail should become visible to the naked eye after 9 pm on December 13, peaking after midnight with as many as 120 meteors per hour. The Geminid meteor shower was first discovered through satellite 35 years ago.
For optimal viewing conditions, the sky must be clear, get as far away from city lights as possible, and face south.