Alan sent in a link about the comet Hale-Bopp (http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/halebopp/esp_halebopp2.htm)
Somehow I missed out on on the mad stuff going on at the time so here's a brief summary if you did too. A very dodgy astronomer Chuck Shramek took a photo of the comet and it showed a star in the background. Mad people then went on to claim that this was a er spaceship alongside the comet. The Heaven's Gate cult took this particularly seriously and commited mass suicide.
This is from the above site:
The most prominent story about the comet is the Shramek photo (right). In the middle of November, Chuck Shramek of Houston took a photo of the comet that shows a bright, Saturn-like object near the comet. Mr. Shramek claimed that this was a large object moving along with the comet. Soon others came forward making even more astonishing statements; that the object was actually an enormous space ship, that it was emitting radio signals, and that there was a government conspiracy to hide the fact that this ship was moving towards the Earth. Some have even claimed that the comet has changed course due to the influence of extra-terrestrial forces.
Copies of the Shramek photo have cropped up all over the Internet, and every professional astronomer who has seen it has said the same thing, that the Saturn-like image is just a star surrounded by diffraction spikes or some defect in the telescope’s optics. I’m an amateur astronomer myself, and I’m familiar with the way images can be distorted by flaws in optics and obstructions in the light paths of telescopes. I have to admit that it does look like a distorted star image. However, the only star in that position is a 9th magnitude star that should appear only as a pinpoint of light, while the object in this image is nearly as large as the comet. If the object is indeed caused by a defect in the telescope or diffraction spikes, would that also have caused the object to appear this large?
Other claims simply don’t seem to make much sense. According to one, the government is involved in a massive attempt to prevent the public from gaining any information about the comet, and is suppressing all photos made of the comet, and that no new images of the comet have been published since May.
The problem with the government suppressing information is that it would be impossible for it to suppress everything. There are literally tens of thousands of amateur astronomers out there, and many of them are equipped with telescopes, cameras and CCD imaging systems that rival low end professional equipment. Since Hale-Bopp is one of the brightest comets to come along in recent years, almost all of those amateurs have been pointing their equipment at the comet. There is simply no way the government could suppress information from all of these sources.
And as for there having been no images of the comet published since May, that simply is not true. A brief search of the Internet turned up almost two hundred images of the comet that have been taken since August, with the most recent that I’ve seen having been taken on December 6.
One of the more recent claims I’ve heard is that Hale-Bopp has changed course, and was being influenced by an external agency, usually some sort of extra-terrestrial force. Astronomers say this is not the case. They say that scientists have simply refined the orbital path of the comet as more accurate information about its position has been made available to them, and that some people have misinterpreted the changes in the projected orbits.
The indications from all mainstream scientific sources is that Hale-Bopp is simply another comet.
And here's more on the story about the suicides from the excellent site, Bad Astronomy:
And if you can face Fruitcake this early in the morning, here's the Heaven's Gate site:
These pseudo science types really get on my thruppnies:
Here's a great quote for the boffins:
The core of the Hale-Bopp Comet Enigma is the unwillingness of the scientific community to entertain any notion outside of a pathetically narrow scope, and one which is established on a foundation of egocentric self-interest. When science is no longer in the hands of true explorers, it's time to consider alternative sources of information.
And here's the link if you want your blood pressure raised: