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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