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3200 Phaethon


Source: NASA

 Context: Phaethon, an asteroid that is the source of the annual Geminid meteor shower, has been found to have a tail made of sodium gas rather than dust as previously thought.


About Phaethon

It is classified as an asteroid (the first to be discovered via satellite in 1983) and named after the Greek myth of Phaethon, son of the sun god Helios, due to its close approach to Sun. It is blue in colour, which is rare for an asteroid.
Mystery Phaethon is an asteroid but it shows comet-like behaviour, by being the source of the annual Geminid meteor shower.
About the Geminid meteor shower The Geminids are a prolific meteor shower caused by the object 3200 Phaethon, which is thought to be a Palladian asteroid with a “rock comet” orbit. The meteor shower peaks during mid-December each year and is considered to be one of the best and most reliable annual meteor showers.
Asteroid Vs Comet An asteroid is a small rocky or metallic body that orbits the Sun, while a comet is a small icy body that also orbits the Sun but is composed of ice, dust, and rock. Asteroids are generally solid and inactive, while comets are known for their long tails created by the sublimation of their ice as they approach the Sun.
About Meteor A meteor, on the other hand, is a small particle, typically a piece of an asteroid or comet, that enters the Earth’s atmosphere and burns up due to the friction with the air. When a meteor enters the Earth’s atmosphere and starts to glow, it is often referred to as a shooting star or meteorite.