"mysterious unidentified companions"
There has been a lot of traffic and questions on the Net about an
object following Comet Hale-Bopp. To answer them shortly, there is no
evidence that the comet might be accompanied by any other object,
natural or artificial.
Here is a short summary of the major events related to Hale-Bopp
- November 14, 1996: Chuck Shramek
takes a CCD image of the
comet. One of the background stars displays some spikes, giving it
a "Saturn-like" look. On Art Bell's radio show, Mr.Shramek
announced this Saturn-Like Object (SLO) to the world. The rumor
spread on the net that this object was a huge spacecraft (3 times
as large as the Earth). The
original image is compared to the Palomar Sky Survey, and the
SLO is identified as star SAO 141894.
- November-December 1996: Other
SLOs were "discovered" in
images released on different web sites. In all cases, the SLO was
identified as a star and/or some CCD artifacts. A
table lists all the "SLO" and companions I heard of, with the
explanation of the phenomena which caused it. In order to help
those who are not experience working with CCD images, the two
pages linked below constitute a short summary of CCD imaging
- January 15, 1997: a new
"UFO" picture was posted on Art Bell's and Whitley Strieber's
web sites. We have identified that image as being a fake based on
an image obtained by an astronomer at the University of Hawaii's
Institute for Astronomy, Dr. David Tholen.
has been issued about this fraud (in HTML format with
Dr. Brown (who sent the hoax to Bell and Strieber) claims he
received the original photo on film rolls. This is impossible
since the original photo were obtained digitally.
More details, including the real, raw images directly from the
telescope, are available on this site.
- March 26, 1997: Thirty nine
members of a cult were found dead in their Californian mansion.
They apparently died in a carefully organized suicide. It seems
that the victims believed they were going to meet Hale-Bopp's
companion. I hope they found the peace they were searching, even
if there was no UFO to meet them.
More details can be found on the The SLO Files of the
Sky and Telescope has also published an
article about this.
Brian Monson has written a very intersting page
describing how bright would be a large object at the distance of Hale-Bopp.
Concluding remarks: Comet Hale-Bopp
is a beautiful and bright object; it is easilly visible. Map and
ephemerides are available on this site. Enjoy this nice
IfA home page
Update: Thu Mar 27 18:50:10 1997
since March 10, 17:30
--- was 12701 on Mar 29, 23:15