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Sky's the Limit as Caltech Student Makes a Discovery

September 07, 1986|ANN HEROLD

Christine Wilson was surprised no one else had seen it before, it was so large and bright. But thanks to her sharp eyes, the 24-year-old astronomy student has a namesake--a new comet. Comet Wilson, named after the graduate student at Caltech in Pasadena, may eventually outshine Halley's comet, experts say. Caltech spokesman Dennis Meredith said comets "are discovered fairly often, but it's fairly seldom they're this large or will approach this close to Earth." "I felt pretty excited about it," said Wilson, who lives in Altadena, grew up in Toronto and has dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship. "It was kind of a fluke for me to find it. It's so bright it's funny nobody else saw it before then." Wilson discovered the comet Aug. 5 while using the 48-inch Schmidt telescope at Mt. Palomar Observatory northeast of San Diego. Comet Wilson "could be a nice, bright comet" when it zips within 110 million miles of the sun next April 20 or 21, and within 50 million to 60 million miles of Earth, probably around April 30, said Brian Marsden, director of the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams in Cambridge, Mass. The only disappointment is that the comet won't be visible from the Northern Hemisphere.

--Police in Norwich, Conn., are speculating that a postal worker might have been thinking back on a jolly holiday in England when routing a payment for a copy of an accident report to police in Norwich, England, instead. "I've never seen this happen before," said police Lt. Louis J. Fusaro, who received the payment nearly a month late after it was sent back from England. "It took a roundabout route, but we got our copy fee." The lieutenant also got a note from the head of the Norwich, England, Police Divisional Headquarters. "As you can imagine, I was rather surprised to receive the correspondence and can only speculate what the postal clerk . . . must have been thinking," wrote Chief Supt. Roger Brighton. "Perhaps (he was) an expatriate, or somebody who spent a happy holiday in our city."

--For the first time in 40 years, the Miss America Pageant program will omit contestants' bust, waist and hip measurements. Pageant Chairman Albert A. Marks Jr. said contest officials decided the statistics are "a non-essential collection of information" and "serve no useful purpose." "Also, it has been one of two targets that are constantly aimed at by women's groups, such as NOW (National Organization for Women) and Women Against Pornography," he said. But the pageant will provide the measurements to members of the media who ask for them, Marks said. Preliminary competition begins this week for the nationally televised competition next Saturday.

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