July 16, 1997

Belief in Alien UFOs Deep in American Psyche

Author Affiliations

JAMA contributor

JAMA. 1997;278(3):193. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550030033014

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BELEAGUERED astrophysicists are all too familiar with UFO theories like the one that figured in the suicides of 39 members of the Heaven's Gate cult in March.

At Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md, site of the Space Telescope Science Institute that operates the Hubble Space Telescope, Hal Weaver, PhD, found his e-mail this spring peppered with inquiries about Comet HaleBopp. Some writers accused Weaver, a research scientist in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, with conspiring to withhold Hubble images of UFOs accompanying the comet. "Most were very angry," Weaver said in an interview. Some, however, felt that he was being coerced into suppressing data and told him he would be in their prayers.

Replying that he saw no evidence for UFOs or other paranormal activities associated with Hale-Bopp, Weaver said, "usually only opened the floodgates for more." Readers will find Hubble's images at

'Dragons and Giants'  "People