Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Today is...the anniversary of the closest a comet as approached Earth

On this day in 1491, an unnamed comet made the closest ever approach to Earth, coming within 860,000 miles. If given the chance what would you have named the comet?

In 1997, 39 members of the Heaven's Gate cult committed suicide in order to reach what they believed was an alien space craft following the Hale-Bopp comet.

The Heaven's Gate members believed that the Earth was about to be "recycled" and that they needed to leave it immediately if they wanted to survive.

They believed the human body was just a vehicle to help them on their journey.

The leaders, Applewhite and Nettles, adopted the idea of ancient astronauts who populated current humanity. Supposedly the aliens had come to reap the harvest of their work, choosing people to join the ranks of flying saucer crews.

The group asserted that a mass suicide was the only way to evacuate Earth, claiming that a space ship was trailing Hale-Bopp. A few months prior to the suicide, the group purchased alien abduction insurance to cover up to 50 members.

The members took phenobarbital, an anti-seizure medicine, mixed with pineapple, washed down with vodka. They also secured plastic bags around their heads to induce asphyxiation.

Each body had a five-dollar bill and three quarters in their pockets, which was for the interplanetary toll.

The brother of Nichelle Nichols, best known for playing Lieutenant Uhura in the original Star Trek series, was among the dead. Possibly related, the Heaven's Gate cult used numerous Star Trek references, including arm bands that read "Heaven's Gate Away Team".

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