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Even though SMART-1 has only just reached the Moon.
Amateur astronomy may very well be the most popular and quickly growing scientific hobby in the world today. This popularity undoubtedly has a basis in the fact that astronomy covers a lot of "turf". Meanwhile the existence of the Internet has made it possible for observers to share their love and knowledge of the sky while working together and advancing the state of the art. Finally, the fact that Telescopes and binoculars are so readily available in great diversity of cost, quality, and capacity doesn't hurt either.
NASA's Cassini spacecraft made its fourth flyby of Titan, Saturn's largest moon, on Tuesday. At its closest approach, the spacecraft swept past the surface at an altitude of only 1,580 km (982 miles). It took images that will help scientists study the moon's clouds, atmosphere and surface structures. NASA is also hoping Cassini will be able to spot where Huygens landed on Titan in January, to give researchers a better idea of the terrain that the probe landed in.
Even though SMART-1 has only just reached the Moon, controllers with the European Space Agency have decided to extend its mission a year, wrapping up in August 2006. This will give the ion-powered spacecraft more time to map the Moon's surface in high resolution. Another benefit of stretching out the time frame is the fact that spacecraft will be placed into a more stable orbit, conserving its fuel. SMART-1 should arrive at its final science orbit by the end of February.
Researchers have used the Chandra X-Ray Observatory to understand just how large supermassive black holes can get by performing a very detailed census of the mysterious objects. These are the gigantic black holes, with millions of times the mass of our Sun, that sit at the centre of almost every galaxy. The largest of them reach 100 million solar masses and gained this weight early - then they ran out of material to consume. The smaller holes, between 10 and 100 million solar masses, have been more frugal with the gas and dust they consume, and continue to grow to this day.
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