March 27, 1997 - The Heaven’s Gate Mystery
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March 27, 1997 - Worst Mass Suicide in US History Tied To Hale-Bopp Comet and UFO Belief
March 27, 1997 - The nation was shocked this morning by the news that 39 people, mostly young computer professionals of the "Higher Source" website development group, had apparently committed suicide in Rancho Santa Fe, California. Early reports claim that their motivation was a desire to join a UFO traveling with Comet Hale-Bopp.
A neighbor, Bill Strong, said five to 10 people, including men and women but no children, had been living at the mansion. He said he noticed vans and trucks coming and going from the residence, and one had New Mexico license plates.
Other people who lived nearby reported that the group had little contact with neighbors. KNBC-TV in Los Angeles quoted a real estate agent who had been trying to sell the house as saying that the sale was hindered by the activity of what appeared to be a religious "cult" meeting there.
There was no indication as to whether the deaths were related to Saturday's mass suicide in Quebec of five members of the Order of the Solar Temple. More than 70 members of that group have committed suicide in the last three years.
March 27, 1997 - Hale – Bopp Observations with Hubble and IUE Surprise Astronomers
Completing an unprecedented year-long study of Comet Hale-Bopp using two NASA observatories, the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Ultraviolet Explorer, astronomers report that they are surprised to find that the different ices in the nucleus seem to be isolated from each other. They also report seeing unexpectedly brief and intense bursts of activity from the nucleus during the monitoring period. The Hubble observations suggest that the nucleus is huge, 19 to 25 miles (30 to 40 kilometers) across.
The findings, by a team of scientists, led by Johns Hopkins astrophysicist Harold Weaver, are being published in the March 28 issue of the journal Science.
"Hale-Bopp will probably provide the most revealing portrait of the workings of a cometary nucleus since the spacecraft missions to comet Halley in 1986," said Weaver. "This is a unique opportunity; we have never had the chance to examine a comet in this much detail, over this large a range of distance from the Sun."
During the course of long-term observations, which began in August 1995, astronomers unexpectedly caught the comet going through a sudden brief outburst, where, in little more than an hour, the amount of dust being spewed from the nucleus increased at least eight-fold. "The surface of Hale-Bopp's nucleus must be an incredibly dynamic place, with `vents' being turned on and off as new patches of icy material are rotated into sunlight for the first time," Weaver said.
To their surprise, astronomers found that water ice sublimates (turns directly from a frozen solid into a gas) at a different rate than the trace ices, implying that those components are not contained within the water on the comet. This conclusion is further supported by Hubble data showing that the rate at which dust left the nucleus was much different than the sublimation rate of water. This result is contrary to previous models for a comet's nucleus which suggest that the trace components, such as carbon disulfide ice, are contained inside of the most abundant ice on the comet, frozen water. As water sublimates the trace components and dust should be released at similar rates, but this is not what Hubble observed.
By studying Hubble Space Telescope images, the astronomers have estimated that its nucleus may be about 19 to 25 miles (30 to 40 kilometers) in diameter. The average comet is thought to have a nucleus of about 3 miles (5 kilometers) in diameter, or even smaller. The comet or asteroid that struck the Earth 65 million years ago, possibly causing the extinction of the dinosaurs, was probably about 6 to 9 miles (10 to 15 kilometers) across.
Because Hale-Bopp was unusually bright when it was still a great distance away, well outside the orbit of Jupiter, it has given scientists their best view ever of the changes in a comet's nucleus as it gets closer to, and is progressively heated by, the sun. Those changes, in turn, provide information about the composition and structure of comets, which are believed to be remnants from the formation of the solar system, about 4.6 billion years ago. Learning more about comets can provide important information about the materials and processes that formed the solar system.
March 31, 1997 - Autopsies completed in suicide cult as probe winds down
SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- Autopsies have been completed on all of the bodies in the Heaven's Gate mass suicide, and officials report that eight of the 18 of the men were castrated.
Eleven bodies had been claimed by families and more bodies were scheduled to be released later Monday. Speaking at a news conference Monday, authorities said they were still searching for families of two of the dead.
The eight who had been castrated had all healed properly, indicating that the operations were not recent, Medical Examiner Dr. Brian Blackbourne said. "It is not something a normal physician would do on request," he said.
Both male and female members of the Heaven's Gate group affected a unisex look, with buzz-cut hair and shapeless clothes. Cult leader Marshall Applewhite had preached celibacy.
As reported Sunday on "Impact," a CNN and Time magazine television program, the autopsies revealed that Applewhite did not have cancer. Cult members had said they believed their charismatic leader was terminally ill. Blackbourne said none of the 39 had a terminal illness.
Lt. Jerry Lipscomb of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department said the investigation is winding down. He also confirmed that the deaths are considered suicides.
"This was a voluntary situation," Lipscomb said. "They ingested the drugs on their own. They may or many not have been influenced, but we'll never know that."
Lipscomb said his department has heard "rumors" of other cult activities and of a possible splinter group that may be planning mass suicides. He discounted that prospect.
He said the FBI has also been called to analyze records of the Heaven's Gate cult -- including 11 to 14 computers, "many, many diskettes, (and) stacks and stacks of documents."
Lipscomb said his department is attempting to find out how the cult obtained the phenobarbital used in the suicide, but said the drug can be obtained legally. No criminal charges are pending concerning the drugs, he said.
Two of the dead contained traces of another drug -- a semi-synthetic opiate called vicovin hydrocodone.
Two bodies still unclaimed
Authorities sought the public's help in finding the families of the two whose bodies have not been claimed. They were identified as:
• Alphonzo Ricardo Foster, 44, formerly of Detroit, whose relatives include three sisters and a brother.
• Lindley A. Pease, 41, from Exeter, New Hampshire, whose sister was identified as Sylvia Pease of Palm Springs, California.
Heavens Gate Key Words Codice on bottom of Web Page.
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