Comet Hale-Bopp and its "mysterious unidentified companions"

Many of the "UFOs" reported are in fact either bright stars or detector defects or artifacts. 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:

The first mysterious companion was reported by Ch.Shramek; the evidences that what he observed was a star are discussed in detail.

Below is a table of "UFOs" obtained from the net, and a short description of what actually is the feature described as unusual.

UFO Identification
National Astronomical Observatory,

April 20, 1996

Another object, "moving with the comet",
and "equipped with a dark funnel".

The full image is available.

The original Shramek object:
November 14, 1996

This image was the first reported "Saturn-like Object"; the full image is available on this site.

The image and a description of the observations of this "scary star" can be found on Shramek's home page

Mayagues, Puerto-Rico
November 14, 1996
Alberto Quijano Vodniza, Jose Alonso

Dark rings around the comet.

The full image is available in this site or at JPL

These are the shadows of dust grain on the filter or on the window of the detector. As mentioned on the original page at JPL, this is an unprocessed image; the rings should disappear when the image is "flat-fielded".
Observatory unknown (HBST?)
Nov.10, 1996???

"Saturn-like object"

The full image, with the comet, is available on this site. This image appeared on Art Bell's page, with no indication on its origin.

The comet has an appearance compatible with the time stamp indicated on the image. However, the background stars do not seem match with that date.

The object seems elongated horizontally, which is difficult to explain (assuming the image has not been doctored). At this point, it is really hard to say anyting more about this image based only on the jpeg version: we really need more information about this observation.

(Update Jan.1, 1997) A very detailed study of that picture has been perfomed and is available on the Enigma site. The conclusions are the following:

  • "The HBST image does not appear to be a Hubble Space Telescope image.
  • The HBST image does not match any optical star field of view for November 10, 1996.
  • Proclamations of the image as ‘evidence’ of a ‘companion object’ are unfounded based on the data provided.
Without more information, no other conclusions can be objectively reached. In my subjective opinion, the HBST image appears to be misinformation. Ron"
I tend to agree with his conclusions.
National Astronomical Observatory,

November 16, 1996

"Saturn-like object" from NAO, Japan.

Full image, with the comet, is available on this site and on the NAO server.

Another nice star:
  • It is listed as GSC 5086 717 in the HST Guide Star Catalogue, a 12th mag star (thanks, Ron!)
  • Diffraction spike in one direction. The other ones have been smeared by the trailing, but are still visible after adjusting the threshold to a lower value.
  • This star appears less elongated than the others because it is brighter (threshold).
  • Some hints of charge bleeding (vertical line above the star), because the star is quite bright and probably saturating the CCD.
"Mysterious image"
released by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber. This doctored image released on Jan.15, 1996, original image taken on Sep.1, 1995 at Mauna Kea.

This image is a hoax: it is an image from Mauna Kea in which an extra star has been added. A special page is devoted to this image.

Please note that all these images are copyrighted.
| HB's companions | HB @ IfA | IfA home page | OH's UFO page | O.H. | Comments? |

Olivier Hainaut

Update: Thu Jan 16 21:27:43 1997 -- Hits: