Less than a week before the peak of the Leonids meteor shower, there is a slim chance that an astral display from a newly-discovered comet will be visible Thursday in the northern sky -- near the lower left star in the bowl of the Big Dipper.

Comet LINEAR, found in May by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research team, made its closest pass to the sun on September 20.

Some 40 days later -- on Thursday, November 11 -- Earth will cross near that point, giving skywatchers an opportunity to see whether or not the comet, which last cruised close to the sun 26,000 years ago previous to this pass, has left behind a trail of reflective debris.

"Were hoping that the last time it was here it had a good burst of meteors that shot out with a bit of force as ice from the comet vaporized," said Brian Marsden, who calculated the comets orbit after it was discovered.

Marsden runs the Minor Planet Center at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where he is associate director for planetary sciences.

"Its all highly speculative," he said. If the sun failed to melt enough material from the comet in its recent pass, then there will be no trail to view as a meteor shower.

"Its very much a long shot," Marsden said.

The object (C/199 J3) first was identified as an asteroid, but Czech Republic astronomers later determined it to be a comet. Joe Rao, an amateur astronomer, predicted the prospective meteor shower.

The shower could end as late as November 18.

Predictions of new meteor showers generally fail to pan out, Marsden said, especially for comets that take tens of thousands of years to circle the sun like Comet LINEAR.

Due to the cosmological brevity of humankind, astronomers are more familiar with the behavior of shorter-period comets, like the one that generates the Perseid meteor shower every August.

"For a given comet we don't know physically what happened," Marsden said. "You've got to have an active comet actively producing meteors. We don't know that this one is."

Meteors come from dust released from a comets nucleus, but that dust often tends to hang close to a comet rather than trail it, Marsden said. In the former case, the chances for a meteor shower would be little to none.

If Comet LINEAR lets observers down, stay tuned. The Leonids, generated by a better-known short-period comet, will follow quickly, with the peak expected on November 18.