Comet Hale-Bopp was formed 4.6 billion years ago in the Oort Cloud during the formation of the solar system. Somewhere along the line, something went haywire and Hale-Bopp began falling towards the Sun. It wound up trapped in the Sun's gravitational well.

The last time humans got a look at Hale-Bopp was around 2214 B.C., when the Great Pyramids and Stonehenge were being built. It's quite possible that Hale-Bopp was bright enough at this time to see it in the daylight. It also could have stretched across most of the night sky. Another unknown is whether or not there remains any documentation of the event. The victory stela of Naram-Sin from Sippar (modern Iraq) is an interesting artifact from around this time that clearly shows two suns in the sky. This is a rarity in ancient symbolism and it's entirely possible that the picture is of Hale-Bopp.

On the night of July 23, 1995, two amateur astronomers (Alan Hale and Tom Bopp) independently discovered Hale-Bopp for the modern world. It was on its way back from a trip of more than 4000 years. Beginning in Summer 1996, it became visible to the naked eye and remained visible from Earth for more than a year.

This was obviously a marker sent to us by our Older Member in the Evolutionary Level Above Human. Whether or not the comet had a "companion" didn't really matter (although it did). On Mar. 26, 1997, my students and I left our containers behind and made our journey to the Kingdom of Heaven, where we now enjoy playing foosball and holding Lords of Acid dance parties.

Facts

  • Size of nucleus: 40km (25mi.)
  • Size of Comet Halley nucleus: 20km (12mi.)
  • Length of Tail: 50-60 million miles in late March
  • Last visit to inner solar system: 2213 B.C.
  • Next visit to inner solar system: About 4300 A.D.
  • Speed of comet at perihelion = 98,000 miles per hour
  • Speed of comet at aphelion = 250 miles per hour
  • Distance from Earth (closest approach): 122 million miles
  • Distance from Sun (closest approach): 85 million miles
  • Distance of Earth from the Sun: 93 million miles
  • Had a UFO "companion" with fancy leather interior and great 0-60 time
The companion object, dubbed the Saturn Like Object (SLO) because it looked like saturn, was discovered by Chuck Shramek on November 14th 1996 and he spoke about it on the Art Bell radio show causing a whole bunch of controversy. While some claim it was something fantastic like a spaceship many feel it was and still is the star named SAO 141894. After Shramek began publicizing his discovery other companion objects stories began popping up many of which were complete frauds.

"People are freaked out, obviously. Hey, the new millennium is almost here, and at forty-five degrees, the sky will burn. That's what Nostradamus said in quatrain VI-97, right? Hale-Bopp will hit its perihelion in April '97 in the Northern sky at 45 degrees geographic latitude. And it'll be making the rounds in our part of the solar system around the same time Nostradamus scheduled ...the Apocalypse. An ominous coincidence, certainly." - Charles Overbeck

There was no better free show in all of 1996-97. After the disappointment of the 1986 almost-invisible-even-with-a-telescope Halley's Comet, there was serious excitement in being able to go outside on a clear night and see a real comet with the naked eye.

On some nights, after the local TV weatherman had said it was a good night to go comet-watching, most of the neighborhood could be found outside, ooh-ing and aah-ing over the light show. That many people, old and young, all looking up at the night sky, marveling at a cosmic event that wouldn't happen again for 4,000 years, watching stars that they hadn't looked at in ages ... chills, baby, up and down my spine...

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