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News

Hills man arrested on molestation charges

Hills man arrested on molestation charges

Gregory Helfrich

Santa Clara Sheriff’s detectives have arrested a Los Altos Hills man they suspect repeatedly molested a child decades ago.

Detectives arrested Gregory Helfrich, 54, on a warrant at his Old Page Mill Road home April 27 and...

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Schools

Local AAUW gives gift of science to junior high students

Local AAUW gives gift of science to junior high students


Courtesy of Jessica Harell
Blach Intermediate School seventh-grader Paris Harrell, who loves science and animals, recently received a scholarship from the local branch of the AAUW to attend Tech Trek camp.

It’s not every day that a junior hig...

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Community

At 98, former language teacher remains a lifelong learner

At 98, former language teacher remains a lifelong learner


Federici

Longtime Los Altos resident Mario Federici, who turned 98 Feb. 24, is a man of many languages. He shared his knowledge with thousands of students during his long career as a teacher.

Federici was born and raised in Italy, where he stud...

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Comment

Attend an event, get involved, have fun: Editorial

You don’t have to run for city council to get involved in the community. Sometimes it can be as simple as attending a Los Altos event. You’ll have plenty of opportunities, as the May and June calendars are bustling with activity.

The Dow...

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Special Sections

Racing around Monterey

Racing around Monterey


Gary Anderson/Special to the Town Crier
The easy handling of the VW Golf R, above, makes for an ideal ride along the Big Sur coast.

 

When automotive journalists are asked to list their favorite places in the world to drive, Monterey alway...

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Business

'Steampunk' eatery toasts local libations

'Steampunk' eatery toasts local libations


Courtesy of Eureka
Eureka, a new restaurant in downtown Mountain View, highlights local craft beer and whiskeys on a menu of food spanning from sea to farm.

Craft beer and fancy whiskeys headline the menu at Eureka, the new restaurant that opene...

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People

Stepping Out

PA Players seek escape in 'Into the Woods'

PA Players seek escape in 'Into the Woods'


Courtesy of Palo Alto Players
The Baker’s Wife, left, and Cinderella’s erstwhile Prince stand out in the Palo Alto Players production of “Into the Woods.”

Little Red Riding Hood sets forth at the outset of “Into the...

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Spiritual Life

Los Altos United Methodist Church service salutes Heifer International

Los Altos United Methodist Church service salutes Heifer International


Courtesy of Los ALtos United Methodist Church
Hidden Villa will bring some of its farm animals to Los Altos United Methodist Church Sunday to support the nonprofit Heifer International.

Los Altos United Methodist Church is scheduled to salute th...

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A comet draws near

An extraordinarily bright comet might share our skies this winter. Comet ISON, discovered in 2012 by Russian astronomers, is currently speeding toward the sun at several miles per second. It is expected to significantly brighten as it nears the sun, and hopeful predictions estimate that it may rival the moon in terms of brightness.

Astronomers believe that comet ISON originated from the Oort Cloud – a spherical cloud of comets that surrounds the solar system at a distance 1,000 times farther than the orbit of Pluto. Comets are occasionally perturbed in the Oort Cloud due to gravity and are sent on orbits that bring them into the solar system.

Comet ISON will make its closest approach to the sun Nov. 28, at a distance of approximately 800,000 miles above the sun’s surface – several times closer than the orbit of Mercury. As it approaches the sun, the water, ice and dust that make up the comet will turn into vapor and create the characteristic comet tail. It is this tail that is readily viewable – comet tails can reach lengths approaching the sun-Earth distance (93 million miles). The nucleus of comet ISON – the solid part of the comet similar to a dirty snowball in composition – is much too small to be visible (only a few miles across).

While many well-known comets make periodic trips to our solar system – Halley’s Comet, for instance, which will next return to the inner solar system in 2061 – comet ISON is a nonperiodic comet and will permanently leave the solar system after its flyby this winter. Comet ISON can be found in the constellation Virgo the Maiden in November. The best time to observe it is shortly before sunrise.

While comet ISON will hopefully prove to be a bright sight even under city skies, it is important to remember that estimating the brightness of comets is notoriously difficult.

“Predicting the behavior of comets is like predicting the behavior of cats – can’t really be done,” said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office.

Katherine Kornei grew up in Los Altos and earned a doctorate in astronomy from UCLA in 2012. She works as a science educator and writer in Portland, Ore.

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