About 200 years ago, a comet known as 209P/LINEAR passed through our cosmic neighborhood, leaving a trail of detritus in its wake. Next week, our humble planet will plow through that debris field, and the resulting meteor shower has NASA more than a little excited—as well as not quite sure what to expect, reports Space.com. It seems the Camelopardalid meteor shower—named for the Camelopardalis constellation, also known as "the Giraffe," from which it will appear to radiate—depends on just how much junk 209P/LINEAR left behind.
"We have no idea of what the comet was doing in the 1800s," says one NASA meteor expert. "There could be a great meteor shower—or a complete dud." Some experts expect up to 200 meteors an hour, which is a rate that would rival the Perseids. But plan for a nap: Peak viewing time is between 2am and 4am Eastern on May 24. North America gets the best seats, notes Space.com. (Read more Camelopardalid meteor shower stories.)