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ESA's SMART-1 has taken its first close-up pictures of the Moon's surface.
The crew of the International Space Station are safely back inside after completing a 5+ hour spacewalk. During their time in space, Commander Leroy Chiao and Flight Engineer Salizhan Sharipov installed a $10 million German prototype robot arm which will demonstrate the feasibility of keeping a repair robot outside the station. Sharipov discovered residue on the outside of three vents that the station uses to expel waste products into space. This is unusual, and could be contributing to the recent problems with air on board the station. The crew of Expedition 10 will make another spacewalk in late March.
The ESA's SMART-1 has taken its first close-up pictures of the Moon's surface, snapping a series of photos from an altitude ranging between 1,000 and 5,000 km above the lunar surface. SMART-1 only entered lunar orbit on November 15, and has been spiraling down for two months. The spacecraft will make a medium-resolution survey of the Moon for the next two weeks before lowering its orbit to begin 5 months of detailed observations, getting as close as 300 km. This first image is centred at lunar latitude 75º North, and the largest crater in the picture is called Brianchon.
Astronomers with the European Space Agency believe that the supermassive black hole (Sgr A*) at the heart of the Milky Way was much more active only 350 years ago, when it was releasing a million times more energy than today. The study was made using the ESA's Integral gamma-ray observatory, which was able to detect how a cloud of Hydrogen gas near Sgr A* is being bathed in gamma radiation. Since this cloud 350 light years away from Sgr A*, Astronomers know how long ago the radiation was released. It's dim right now, but Sgr A* is sure to flare up again in the future when it consumes another large quantity of matter.
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