» Home > In the News

The Geminids and Worlds in Collision

11 February 2024
Astronomy, Catastrophism, Geology

I couldn’t resist the title. Not planets but comets and asteroids breaking up or smashing each other about. Let’s begin at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/32—phaethon … which is regularly updated and seems to be up to scratch on the new findings. 3200 Phaethon is an Apollo asteroid named after the Greek myth of Phaethon, a character, or cosmic body, that came too close to the Sun and threatened life on earth. 3200 Phaethon is thought to be the parent body of the Geminid meteor shower which crosses the path of the earth for a few days in December each year. It was not discovered until 1983 and is largely missing from Clube and Napier’s two books, written in the 1980s and 1990s. Apollo asteroids do feature – but not 3200 Phaethon. Nevertheless, a new study seems somewhat close to the ideas of Clube and Napier as we shall see – a large comet, or asteroid, breaking up at the end of the Ice Age.

3200 Phaeton crosses the path of Mercury, Venus and Mars as well as the Earth – and gets half way between Mercury and the Sun on its orbit. Apollo asteroids share somewhat similar orbits to Phaethon  which may indicate a possible common break up origin. In fact, shortly after its discovery, Fred Whipple observed its orbit was coincident with the Geminids. It has since become known as the parent body of that meteor shower. At  https://www.livescience.com/space/asteroids/the-geminid-meteors-may-be-10-times-older-than-we-thought-simulations-of-oddball-asteroid-phaethon-suggest …  which was research conducted prior and leading up to the 2025 Japanese mission to 3200 Phaethon. Simulation seems to suggest that Phaethon as it currently is cannot have been the original projenitor – as it is too small, among other objections. Yet, these rocky fragments, now mostly grains, were at some stage aimed in the direction of the Earth. In other words, the original Geminids, thought to have formed around 2000 years ago, may be older in origin. Hence, the idea of conducting a comprehensive simulation of the orbit of 3200 Phaethon over 100,000 years. One date popped out of the computer which the researchers seem to have run with. They claim that the parent body of 3200 Phaethon produced the rock fragments that eventually became the Geminids as long ago as 18,000 years. The press release does not seem to make much of this date – but it corresponds with the end of the Late Glacial Maximum and the beginning of the Oldest Dryas Event – otherwise known as Heinrich Event One.

That is of course by the by – leading to goodbye, as the issue as it is  presented is not the date but the breakup event itself. Did two asteroids collide with each other, or  was the parent body a comet, or as Bill Napier prefers nowadays, a Centaur object [a cross between an asteroid and a comet]. Napier has also updated the Clube and Napier hypothesis by linking all three dryas events as well as the Laschamp event at 40,000 years ago – and another significant event around 33,000 years ago that led to the Late Glacial Maximum. In other words, the upheavals in the Holocene were the rump of something much bigger, a by far lesser cosmic object that had  split apart, and split again, and again, prior to the main body of the Holocene – and included the Younger Dryas Event as just one of several upheavals that affected humans and life on earth. Having said  all that, the new study  focuses on the one possibility of a break up event – at 18,000 years, but acknowledges other events probably also occurred. This is a bit like coverage of the Younger Dryas Event – largely limited to a single break up event. It is mainly Bill Napier that has presented the bigger picture. Not only that but as an established astronomer with a long career he is much harder to refute – as mainstream are inclined to get rid of unpalatable theories. Mainstream continues to attack the Younger Dryas team, seeing a few weak links that have nevertheless been upended by the team bouncing back each  time a critique is published to a loud fanfare. This new study, it seems to me, opens the hypothesis wide apart – but will mainstream bite?

There is one problem in which a counter attack may focus and that is on the current trajectory of the Geminids, and its date of origin – 2000 years ago, or possibly even less than that. Clube and Napier, on page 147 of their book, ‘The Cosmic Winter‘ Blackwell of Oxford:1990, explain how the mainstream view came about,. They compare the passage of the earth through the November Taurid meteor stream to that of the Geminids in early December. It takes  from the 3rd to the 15th of November for the passage through the Taurid stream, from which they conclude it must have a much older origin than that of the Geminids, which takes just 2 or 3 days. The latter is narrow, and therefore more dense, and must be of  recent origin in comparison to that of the November Taurids. However, as the new study shows, the grains of the Geminids are in fact quite small and it is difficult to see how they broke off the asteroid 3200 Phaethon as recently as mainstream believe. Note here that Clube and Napier are  in the mainstream camp on this. After all, they were employed at the Armagh Observatory, for example. The new study, based on computer simulation of the orbit of 3200 Phaethon would appear to disagree – unless something else occurred within the last 2000 years [possibly in the 5th or 6th century AD]. Hopefully, Napier and his pals will give it their attention.

Another interesting point is the simulation arrived at a figure of 10 million tons of rocky fragments unleashed by the collision or break up at 18,000 years ago. This may account for the severity of the Oldest Dryas Event – lasting twice as long as the Younger Dryas Event. A large body of these fragments became a regular hazard to earth and its inhabitants, they say. They even say the hazard lasted until as late as 4000 years ago, or around 2000BC. This of course ignores the end of LB event which also involved Herakles- or Herakles constituent parts, a Greek name for one of the fragments of the parent body. I find it fascinating that these ideas have surfaced as the Clube and Napier  theory has receded from scientific consciousness. Will it all get stirred up again? The Japanese DESTINY mission is going to be an interesting one to watch.

Sere also https://arstechnica.com/science/2023/06/we-finally-know-how-the-mysterious-geminid-meteor-shower originated …. NASA scientists show how the Geminids formed during a catastrophic event, a break up of a cosmic body that came too close to the Sun. Whereas that might be true of comets, such as the sun grazers, does it follow for asteroids we may wonder, which might contradict the author of this piece. It seems the Parker Solar Probe flew through the Geminids and was bombarded, shotgun like, by numerous small grains that gave off electrical signals on impact. These were detected by the FIELDS instrument onboard the probe,  which was designed to measure electric and magnetic fields [hence it’s name]. The data subsequently convinced the NASA team the Geminids were not  constantly breaking off from the parent body, 3200 Phaethon. The objects could have come from a collision or a break up of a larger cosmic body, possibly a comet. The same collision or break up may have produced two nearby asteroids orbiting in sync, to some extent. Their orbits are said to be close to that of 3200 Phaethon. This sounds almost word for word like the original Clube and Napier hypothesis – a huge comet, or centaur object, gradually losing  mass and splitting apart over thousands of years. Such a theory would also explain another mystery about the Geminids – their mass. There is simply too much of it to have a sole origin in 3200 Phaethon.

See also https://science.nasa.gov/solar-system/meteors-meteorites/geminids/ …  and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geminids … and the article itself was published by Planetary Science Journal 2023 – see https://doi.org/10.3847/PSJ/acd538

Skip to content