Front Range stargazers might be in for a rare celestial show early Saturday morning — but weather forecasters are not holding out great hope.

The 209P/LINEAR meteor shower offers Coloradans a chance to be ringside for a rare astronomical event, the dawn of a new meteor shower.

However, there is a significant issue that could dampen the festivities, and that is the weather forecast. At what should be peak viewing time, about 1:30 a.m. Saturday, the National Weather Service sees a likelihood it will be mostly cloudy, with mid- and high-level clouds hampering the view.

Douglas Duncan, director of Fiske Planetarium at the University of Colorado, is not discouraged; at least, not that he is admitting to.

"It's not great," Duncan said of the forecast. "But what's been happening the last couple of nights is big, hulking storms late in the afternoon and evening, with a chance of clearing in the early morning hours, so that's what I'm shooting for."

The weather is not the only thing that is uncertain, Duncan said.

"This is one of those things that's impossible to predict because this is a brand new meteor shower, which is a pretty rare thing. We just don't know how much debris is out there. It could be dozens of meteors per hour, it could be hundreds. This is very different from an eclipse, where we know what's coming."

According to NASA, tonight's Camelopardalid meteor shower marks the first time Earth will directly cross the dusty trails left behind by the recently discovered comet 209P/LINEAR.


"Some forecasters have predicted a meteor storm of more than 200 meteors per hour," Bill Cooke, lead for NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, said in a live chat at "We have no idea what the comet was doing in the 1800s. The parent comet doesn't appear to be very active now, so there could be a great show, or there could be little activity."

NASA's estimate is that meteor activity should peak between midnight and 2 a.m. Saturday, MDT.

Meteors are always more visible for those removed from the lights of a city; stargazers in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area will see far more than those at Scott Carpenter Park. Duncan said meteors are expected to radiate from a point above the northern horizon, to the right of the position of the Big Dipper at 1:30 a.m.

"I'm going to set my alarm for midnight and stay out in a sleeping bag and watch from midnight on," Duncan said.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Charlie Brennan at 303-473-1327 or