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Comet Hale-Bopp and its 'Mysterious Unidentified Companions'

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Things to beware of in 1997:

Govermental attempts to control or legislate the 'net'; remember that 
control is just a synonym for 'manipulate'!


This and the next few posts come from the Hale-Bopp web site I mentioned in
earlier messages.  The site, again, for those of you who want to look it up (it
does have some cool pictures , is:


                              Comet Hale-Bopp
                                  and its
                    "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

Here is a short summary of the major events related to Hale-Bopp alleged

   * 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 analysis techniques:
        o Basic image processing: the steps that an image undergoes between
          the telescope and a WWW browser.
        o Common CCD artifacts: how to determine if what you see on an
          image is from outer space or is inside the CCD.

   * 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.

     A statement 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

   * 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
site. 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 comet!

Olivier Hainaut

Update: Thu Mar 27 18:50:10 1997

Next: Fraudulent Hale-Bopp Images