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  • Phaethon and the Geminids: How Asteroids Fall Apart

Phaethon and the Geminids: How Asteroids Fall Apart

  • March 17, 2022
  • 7:30 PM - 9:00 PM
  • In person at the Roper Mountain Mountain Observatory as well as virtually on Zoom. Link to join the meeting will be sent when you register for the event. Links will be on the bottom of your confirmation email.
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Phaethon and the Geminids: How Asteroids Fall Apart


It is well known that comets fall apart but, until recently, we did not appreciate that asteroids (essentially, just rocks in space) can do the same. For example, the annual Geminid meteor stream is produced by asteroid Phaethon. Despite a growing body of work, the mechanisms behind Phaethon's disintegration remain mysterious. I will discuss the newest observations and ideas about asteroid disintegration, and show that this may be a general phenomenon responsible for the destruction of most near-Sun asteroids. Lastly, I will preview an upcoming and approved mission that will send a spacecraft to Phaethon.


David Jewitt grew up in working class London and became interested in the sky at a young age. Through (gratefully received) state-subsidized education, he went to the University of London, then moved to the US to be close to large telescopes, becoming a professor first at MIT, then the University of Hawaii and more recently at UCLA. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and recipient of the Shaw Prize in Astronomy and the Kavli Prize in Astrophysics, for work done on the Kuiper belt.

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