From a JPL preprint submitted to Earth, Moon & Planets, dated Jan. 1998,
by Z. Sekanina, with the bold title, “Detection of a satellite orbiting the
nucleus of Comet Hale-Bopp (C/1995O1)”. May-Oct. 1996 images of the comet from
Hubble’s WFPC2 instrument show several bright spots quite close to the primary
nucleus that change position from picture to picture, but move with the comet,
not the star background. The brightest of these has an average signal-to-primary
brightness ratio of 0.21 +/- 0.03, suggesting a satellite with diameter 30 km
for a main nucleus size of about 70 km. Projected distances from the primary
nucleus vary from 160 to 210 km, or 0.06 to 0.10 arcsec. Orbital periods are
about 2-3 days, and the orbits appear dynamically stable. The Oct. 1995 Hubble
images (the last before May 1996) had sub-pixel separation, and therefore could
not have detected even the largest satellite. Ground-based detection of multiple
nuclei of such comets is altogether unlikely because of the atmosphere’s
effect on the light’s point-spread function. Therefore, the failure to detect
these satellites in other images is not inconsistent with this new data.
Our Meta Research web site <http://www.metaresearch.org>
predicted Hale-Bopp satellites (as a consequence of the exploded planet
hypothesis) well before these Hubble images were taken in 1996. Indeed, the
prediction can still be found at the site. We also made this prediction in this
Bulletin: "The satellites of Comet Hale-Bopp", MRB 4, 49-51 (1995).
Meta Research members may justifiably share in the credit for this success
because of their support for the underlying research.
Later relevant publications: Icarus 140, 221-230 (1999); Earth-Moon-Planets, in