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A rare outburst of hundreds of meteors is possible Thursday night, visible across the eastern United States, including in Maryland. But at least one NASA meteor expert doubts it will live up to those expectations — and besides, cloudy skies may block the view.

A pair of astronomers predict that a little known meteor shower known as the alpha Monocerotids could create a show with hundreds of “shooting stars” streaking across the sky within less than an hour, and potentially as little as 15 minutes. The meteors come from the dust trail of an unknown comet.

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Esko Lyytinen, of the URSA astronomical society in Finland, and Peter Jenniskens, a senior research scientist at the SETI Institute in California, wrote in a post to the website eMeteorNews earlier this month they expected “a good chance to observe a short-lived outburst” of the meteors. They said the forecast for the meteor shower this year suggests it will be similar to shows it produced in 1925, 1935, 1985 and 1995, when meteors appeared at rates of 400 to as much as 1,000 per hour.

They predict the heaviest meteor shower to occur within 15 minutes around 4:50 Universal Time on Nov. 22, which is 11:50 p.m. Thursday in Eastern Time.

“Anyone who is going to try to observe should not be late at all,” the astronomers wrote.

But the forecast isn’t certain. In a blog post Tuesday, one NASA meteor expert said the radiant point — the spot from which meteors appear to emanate — will be relatively low in the sky at the shower’s peak, meaning many of the streaks of light will be hidden beneath the horizon.

NASA predicted perhaps 80 meteors in total could be visible in Maryland and along the rest of the East Coast.

Bill Cooke, who leads the NASA Meteoroid Environment Office, said it’s still worth a look, if the weather is good. In Maryland, that appears iffy: Partly to mostly cloudy skies are in the forecast Thursday night.

“If Jenniskens and Lyytinen are right, you might see some pieces of a comet that awaits discovery, burning up in the atmosphere 60 miles above your head,” Cooke wrote. “Even if there is no outburst, it doesn’t hurt to get out under the stars for a bit.”

To see the most meteors in any shower, astronomers recommend watching from a place with minimal light pollution and an unobstructed view of the sky, laying flat on the ground for the best view. They suggest spending as much as 45 minutes outside, allowing eyes to adjust to darkness, before the expected peak.

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