As one of the most visible comets of the 20th century, Hale-Bopp would have been newsworthy anyway.
Easily seen with the naked eye for 18 consecutive months, it was a constant celebrity in the media spotlight. Then on March 26, 1997, Hale-Bopp reached a new pinnacle of notoriety.
It was on this date that 39 decomposing bodies were discovered near San Diego, California. These individuals had apparently been part of mass suicide and all were dressed in similar black attire with hoods over their heads.