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Daily Category  (Space)

Asteroid Bennu

Context:

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft touched asteroid Bennu, from where it is meant to collect samples of dust and pebbles and deliver them back to Earth in 2023.

  • OSIRIS-REx stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer.
  • The asteroid was named after an Egyptian deity by a nine-year-old boy from North Carolina in 2013. 

Asteroids:

  • These are rocky objects that orbit the Sun, much smaller than planets. They are also called minor planets. 
  • According to NASA, there are around 994,383 known asteroids, the remnants from the formation of the solar system over 4.6 billion years ago.
  • Asteroids are divided into three classes:
    1. Tose found in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, which are estimated to contain somewhere between 1.1-1.9 million asteroids.
    2. Trojans: These are asteroids that share an orbit with a larger planet. NASA reports the presence of Jupiter, Neptune, and Mars trojans. In 2011, they reported an Earth trojan as well.
    3. Near-Earth Asteroids (NEA): These have orbits that pass close by the Earth. Those that cross the Earth’s orbit are called Earth-crossers. More than 10,000 such asteroids are known, out of which over 1,400 are classified as potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs).

OSIRIS-REx mission:

  • This is NASA’s first mission meant to return a sample from the ancient asteroid. 
  • The mission was launched in 2016, it reached its target in 2018 and since then, the spacecraft has been trying to match the velocity of the asteroid using small rocket thrusters to rendezvous it. 
  • The mission is essentially a seven-year-long voyage and will conclude when at least 60 grams of samples are delivered back to the Earth.
  • The mission aims to bring the largest amount of extraterrestrial material back to our planet since the Apollo era.

Recent developments: 

  • Recently, the spacecraft’s robotic arm called the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM), made an attempt to “TAG” the asteroid at a sample site which was no bigger than a few parking spaces and collected a sample.
  • The spacecraft contains five instruments meant to explore Bennu including cameras, a spectrometer, and a laser altimeter.
    • The departure window for the mission will open up in 2021, after which it will take over two years to reach back to Earth.

Asteroid Bennu:

  • Bennu is an asteroid about as tall as the Empire State Building and located at a distance of about 200 million miles away from the Earth. 
  • Scientists study asteroids to look for information about the formation and history of planets and the sun since asteroids were formed at the same time as other objects in the solar system.
    • Another reason for tracking them is to look for asteroids that might be potentially hazardous.
  • Bennu hasn’t undergone drastic changes since its formation over billions of years ago and therefore it contains chemicals and rocks dating back to the birth of the solar system.
    • It is also relatively close to the Earth.

Source: Indian Express 

A quest for order amid cyber insecurity

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

The present time is both, the best and worst for cyberspace.

Apple, Amazon and Microsoft have amassed over a trillion dollars in market value since the beginning of the year 2020.

However, on the other hand, cyber-attacks have grown as well.

2. INCREASING CYBER-INSECURITY

2.1 Increasing malwares

  • A report puts the number of daily malware and phishing emails related to COVID-19 to over 18 million in a single week in April 2020 monitored by a single email provider.
  • This was in addition to more than 240 million COVID-19-related daily spam messages.        
  • Twitter hackers and ransomware targets too are increasing by the day.

2.2 Cyber-attacks and States

  • Concerns about role of states in cyber-attack are also surfacing as mentioned by Australia.
  • There are also allegations on China regarding hacking health-care institutions in the U.S. doing research on COVID-19 treatment.
  • The United Kingdom has warned Russian state backed hackers targeting pharmaceutical companies working on COVID-19 vaccine.
  • India has recently banned specified Chinese Apps stating that they are “engaged in activities prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India”.
  • This act of the Indian Government adds another layer of complexity to the contestation in cyberspace.
  • Therefore, clearly the cyber insecurity of individuals, organisations and states is expanding amidst the COVID-19 atmosphere.

2.3 Better understanding of Global Cyberspace

  • The world is increasingly moving in the digital space. People are adapting to new ways of digital interaction and an increasing number of critical infrastructure is turning digital.
  • However, despite the accelerated pace towards digital technologies, most of us do not understand the parameters of the transformation towards digital.
  • Much like the global public health, cybersecurity too is considered a niche area and is left to the experts.
  • The covid-19 pandemic has underlined the importance of the global public health infrastructure and the need to abide by agreed rules.
  • On similar lines, a better understanding of the global cyberspace architecture is also imperative.

3. NO GLOBAL COMMONS

3.1 The global commons

  • International law identifies four global commons viz. the High Seas, the Atmosphere, the Antarctica and the Outer Space.
  • The borderless global cyberspace is also considered a part of the “global commons”, however experts are of the view that it does not exist.

3.2 Border control on cyberspace

  • The view of cyberspace in terms of connectivity across national boundaries is an illusion.
  • Since the internet is dependent on the physical infrastructure that is under national control, the internet too is subjected to border control.
  • States control the national networks through laws in accordance with their international commitments.

3.3 Responsibility of States vis-a-vis cyberspace

  • States are also responsible for the following:
    • Ensuring cybersecurity,
    • Enforcing laws related to cyberspace
    • Protection of public good
  • Apart from their own actions, States are also responsible for actions taken from within their sovereign territory.
  • However, the implementation of the States' responsibilities towards cyberspace is difficult, since the infrastructure on which the Internet is dependent, falls within the jurisdictions of multiple states.
  • These states have differing approaches towards the view of cyberspace and cybersecurity.

3.4 Multiple Stakeholders

  • There are multiple stakeholders in the cyberspace including both states and non-state actors.
  • The non-state actors play key roles with both benign and malignant intentions.
  • Furthermore, some networks are private which have different objectives than the states have.
  • At last, the cyber tools too have dual use, cheap and make attribution and verification of actions quite a task.

3.5 Developing cyber norms

  • Despite the presence of both state and non-state actors, only the states have the right of oversight.
  • There is no single authority for the global cyberspace like the World Health Organization, which can monitor, assess, advise and inform about fulfilment of state commitments, in however limited or unsatisfactory a manner.
  • To put it simply we are still searching for the cyber "rules of the road".
  • Presently we are in the developing stage of “cyber norms” that can provide a balance between the competing demands of national sovereignty and transnational connectivity.

4. GAPS IN CURRENT PROCESSES

4.1 UN and Cybersecurity

  • In 1998, Russia raised the issue of information and communications technologies (ICTs) in international security on the UN agenda.
  • Since then, six Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) with two-year terms and limited membership have been working on the issue.
  • In addition to the GGE, last year, an Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) began working on the same issue with similar mandates. The group is open to all and many states have shown interest in the group.
  • A report is expected by the next year.

4.2 Discussions in the group

  • The discussions are focussed narrowly in line with the mandate.
  • Issues that have been kept out are:
    • Internet governance
    • Development
    • Espionage
    • Digital privacy
  • Issues like terrorism and crime are acknowledged as important but the discussions on these topics are not as thoroughly done as in other UN bodies.

4.3 Outcome of the UN Exercise

  • The net outcome of the UN exercise on cyberspace is the acceptance that international law and the UN Charter applies to cyberspace as well.
  • On these lines, a set of voluntary norms of responsible state behaviour was agreed to in 2015.
  • However, the aspects are circumstances in which the international law will be applicable have still not been addressed and various reports on the matter call for action including the recent report by UN Secretary General AntónioGuterres’s entitled “Roadmap for Digital Cooperation”.
  • However, given the present geopolitical circumstances there is very little hope of such processes being undertaken.

5. MORE ENGAGEMENT NEEDED

5.1 Expanding cyberspace in India

  • Generally speaking, technologies move faster and are ahead of the development of associated norms and institutions, similar is the case with cyberspace.
  • This provides India the opportunity with the time and space to develop our approach in tune with relevance of cyberspace to India's future economic, social and political objectives.
  • Despite the digital divide, India’s cyber footprint is expanding at an accelerated rate and therefore the rate of conflicts and crimes will increase too.
  • Under these circumstances, the Shared “rules of the road” become imperative.

5.2 India and Cybersecurity

  • The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology is a very active nodal agency for cybersecurity.
  • Five of the six GGEs formed had representatives from India.
  • India is also an active participant at the OEWG.
  • India is also a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which has also shown support for a code of conduct.
  • India also joined the Christchurch Call, which brought countries and corporations together on order for an increased effort in stopping the use of social media for promoting terrorism and violent extremism.

5.3 Need of active engagements

  • The cyberspace is becoming an increasingly contested and fragmented domain.
  • Going forward, the issue of cybersecurity will require better arrangements and more intense partnerships with additional safeguards.

5.4 India and Global Efforts

  • India needs to turn attention immediately on the issue of cybersecurity.
  • India needs to take both domestic and global efforts in this regard.
  • India should be an active participant in shaping and defining cyber norms.
  • India can also consider acceding to the Convention on Cybercrime of the Council of Europe (Budapest Convention).
  • There should be increasing participation and engagement in multi-stakeholder orientations as the Paris Call for trust and security in cyberspace.

5.5 India and domestic Efforts

  • There should be more clarity on legislation on data protection.
  • The private sector in India should be encouraged to participate increasingly in industry-focused processes such as the Microsoft-initiated Cybersecurity Tech Accord and the Siemens-led Charter of Trust.

6. CONCLUSION

Present there is a huge digital divide in India. However, the coming future is going to bridge this gap and India is expected to have a major portion of the next billion smartphones.

Therefore, it is imperative that cybersecurity is going to play a large role in the lives of Indians.

To prepare for the larger role of cyberspace in India, we need to work on a deeper public understanding of cyberspace, cybersecurity and its various dimensions.

Given the size and scope of cyberspace in India, it is too important to be left only to the experts.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In)

  • CERT-In is a functional organization under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology of the Government of India.
  • CERT-In is the national nodal agency to deal with cybersecurity incidents.
  • The CERT-In was established in 2004.
  • The Information Technology (Amendment) Act 2008 has provided for the following functions to be undertaken by CERT-In and has designated it to serve as the national nodal agency:
    • Collection, analysis and dissemination of information on cyber incidents.
    • Forecast and alerts of cybersecurity incidents
    • Emergency measures for handling cybersecurity incidents
    • Coordination of cyber incident response activities.
    • Issue guidelines, advisories, vulnerability notes and whitepapers relating to information security practices, procedures, prevention, response and reporting of cyber incidents.
    • Such other functions relating to cybersecurity as may be prescribed.

Mars Opposition 2020

Context:

According to NASA, this year Mars’ closest approach to Earth was on October 6, the opposition will happen on October 13, which will give the planet its “biggest, apparent size of the 2020s”.

The opposition:

  • It is the event when the sun, Earth, and an outer planet are lined up, with the Earth in the middle.
  • The event of Opposition, in the case of Mars, takes place every two years and two months (26 months).
    • During this event, Mars outshines Jupiter and becomes the third brightest object (moon and Venus are the first two) in the night sky.
  • The time of opposition is the point when the outer planet is typically also at its closest distance to the Earth for a given year.
  • An opposition can occur anywhere along Mars’ orbit, but when it happens when the planet is also closest to the sun, it is also particularly close to the Earth.
  • As per NASA, from an individual’s perspective on the Earth, Mars rises in the east and after staying up all night, it sets in the west just as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
  • The Sun and Mars appear to be on the opposite sides of the sky and that is why Mars is said to be in “opposition” because of the perspective on the Earth

Occurrence of Opposition:

  • Earth and Mars orbit the sun at different distances (Mars is farther apart from the sun than Earth and therefore takes longer to complete one lap around the sun).
  • The event of opposition can happen only for planets that are farther away from the sun than the Earth.
  • In case of opposition, Mars and Sun are on directly opposite sides of the Earth i.e. the Earth, sun, and Mars all lie in a straight line, with the Earth in the middle.
  • As per NASA, Mars made its closest approach to Earth in 2003 in nearly 60,000 years and it won’t be that close to the planet until 2287 because the orbits of Earth and Mars are not perfectly circular and their shapes can change slightly because of gravitational tugging by other planets.

Why opposition doesn’t always mean the closest point to Earth?

  • Mars' orbit is more elliptical than Earth's which causes the difference between perihelion and aphelion to be greater.
  • The gravity of Jupiter tugs on Mars and causes its orbit to be a bit off-kilter compared with Earth.
  • The orbital quirks can lead to Mars sometimes be closest before opposition, and therefore before it appears brightest.

Source: Indian Express

Artemis Program

Context:

NASA plans to send the next man and first woman to the lunar surface by the year 2024 under its Artemis program. The last time NASA sent humans to the Moon was in 1972, during the Apollo lunar mission.

Artemis program:

  • Under this program, NASA will demonstrate new technologies, capabilities, and business approaches that will be needed for the future exploration of Mars.
  • The program is divided into three parts,
    • Artemis I: It is most likely to be launched next year and involves an uncrewed flight to test the SLS and Orion spacecraft.
    • Artemis II: It will be the first crewed flight test and is targetted for 2023.
    • Artemis III: It will land astronauts on the Moon’s the South Pole in 2024.

Details:

  • For NASA, going to the moon involves various elements such as:
    • Exploration ground systems (the structures on the ground that are required to support the launch),
    • Space Launch System (SLS), Orion (the spacecraft for lunar missions),
    • Gateway (the lunar outpost around the Moon), lunar landers (modern human landing systems) and
    • Artemis generation spacesuits 
  • NASA’s new rocket called SLS will send astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft a quarter of a million miles away from Earth to the lunar orbit.
    • Once the astronauts dock Orion at the Gateway (small spaceship in orbit around the moon) they will be able to live and work around the Moon, and from the spaceship, will take expeditions to the surface of the Moon.
  • The astronauts going for the Artemis program will wear newly designed spacesuits, called Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or xEMU.
    • These spacesuits feature advanced mobility and communications and interchangeable parts that can be configured for spacewalks in microgravity or on a planetary surface.

Moon exploration:

  • In 1959, the Soviet Union’s uncrewed Luna 1 and 2 became the first rover to visit the Moon. Since then, seven nations have followed suit.
  • Before the US sent the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon, it sent three classes of robotic missions between 1961 and 1968. After July 1969, 12 American astronauts walked on the surface of the Moon until 1972.
    • Together, the Apollo astronauts brought back over 382 kg of lunar rock and soil back to Earth for study.
  • Then in the 1990s, the US resumed lunar exploration with robotic missions Clementine and Lunar Prospector. In 2009, it began a new series of robotic lunar missions with the launch of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS).
  • In 2011, NASA began the ARTEMIS (Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence, and Electrodynamics of the Moon’s Interaction with the Sun) mission and in 2012, the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory spacecraft studied the Moon’s gravity.
  • The European Space Agency, Japan, China, and India have sent missions to explore the Moon. China landed two rovers on the surface, which includes the first-ever landing on the Moon’s far side in 2019.
  • ISRO recently announced India’s third lunar mission Chandrayaan-3, which will comprise a lander and a rover.

Source: Indian Express

Data Sonification

Context:

NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Center (CXC) has unveiled a new ‘sonification’ project that transforms data from astronomical images into audio.

Data sonification:

  • It refers to the use of sound values to represent real data. It is the auditory version of data visualization.
  • In NASA’s recent Chandra project data is represented using a number of musical notes. With this data sonification project, users can now experience different phenomena captured in astronomical images as an aural experience.
    • The birth of a star, a cloud of dust, or even a black hole can now be ‘heard’ as a high or low pitched sound.

Details:

  • Users can now listen to images of the Galactic Centre, the remains of a supernova called Cassiopeia A, as well as the Pillars of Creation Nebula, which are all located in a region around 26,000 light-years away from Earth.
  • The data has been collected by NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory, Hubble Space Telescope, and Spitzer Space Telescope.

Process of images into sound translation:

  • Telescopes in space collect digital data in the form of ones and zeroes (binary), before converting them into images.
  • The images are visual representations of light and radiation of different wavelengths in space, that can’t be seen by the human eye.
  • The Chandra project has created a celestial concert by translating the same data into sound. Pitch and volume are used to denote the brightness and position of a celestial object or phenomenon.
    • Pitch is related to the frequency of sound waves. Changing the number of vibrations per second changes the pitch.
    • Volume, or loudness, is related to the strength, intensity, pressure, or power of the sound. Bigger/amplified vibrations result in bigger/louder sounds.
  • Project Chandra has released three examples - the Galactic Centre, Cassiopeia A, and Pillars of Creation Nebula.

The Galactic Centre:

  • It is the rotational center of the Milky Way galaxy.
  • It comprises a collection of celestial objects like Neutron, white dwarf stars, clouds of dust and gas.
  • A supermassive black hole called Sagittarius A*(weighs four million times the mass of the sun).

Cassiopeia A:

  • Located around 11,000 light-years away from Earth in the northern Cassiopeia constellation.
  • Cassiopeia A is a well-known remnant of a once-massive star that was destroyed by a supernova explosion around 325 years ago.

Pillars of Creation Nebula:

  • It is located in the center of the Eagle Nebula (it is a constellation of stars), which is also known as Messier 16.

Significance of sonification project:

  • The sonification project was led by the Chandra X-ray Center in collaboration with NASA’s Universe of Learning Program.
  • The project aims to incorporate NASA science content into the learning environment effectively and efficiently for learners of all ages. 
  • NASA has been working towards making data about space accessible for a larger audience. Chandra, sonification projects like this allow audiences including visually-impaired communities to experience space through data.

Source: Indian Express

The Solar Cycle

Context:

Scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced their predictions about the new solar cycle, called Solar Cycle 25. According to scientists, the solar cycle has begun. Solar cycles have implications for life and technology on Earth as well as astronauts in space.

Solar cycle:

  • Electrically charged gases on Sun's surface generate areas of powerful magnetic forces, which are called magnetic fields.
  • The gases on the Sun’s surface are constantly moving, these magnetic fields can get stretched, twisted, and tangled creating motion on the surface, which is referred to as solar activity.
  • Solar activity varied with the stages of the solar cycle, which lasts an average period of 11 years.

Tracking of solar activity:

  • Scientists track a solar cycle by using sunspots. Sunspots are associated with the origins of giant explosions such as solar flares that can spew light, energy, and solar material into space.
  • Sunspots are the dark blotches on the Sun that are associated with solar activity.

Significance:

  • The tracking of solar activity is important because it can have effects on Earth. For example, when charged particles from coronal mass ejections reach areas near the Earth, they can trigger intense lightning in the skies (auroras).
  • When Coronal mass ejections are particularly strong, they can also interfere with the power grids, which can cause electricity shortages and power outages.
    • NASA notes that solar flares and coronal mass ejections are the most powerful explosions in our solar system.
  • Solar flares can have also a major effect on radio communications, GPS connectivity, power grids, and satellites.

Sunspots:

  • It is an area on the Sun that appears dark on the surface and is relatively cooler than the surrounding parts.
  • These spots are around 50,000 km in diameter, are the visible markers of the Sun’s magnetic field, which forms a blanket that protects the solar system from harmful cosmic radiation.
  • When a Sunspot reaches up to 50,000 km in diameter, it may release a huge amount of energy that can lead to solar flares.
  • The beginning of a solar cycle is characterized by only a few sunspots and is therefore referred to as a solar minimum.
  • Recently, scientists announced that the solar minimum for Solar Cycle 25 occurred in 2019. It took time for them to announce this because of the variability of the Sun.
  • Scientists predict a solar maximum (middle of the solar cycle) will be reached by 2025 and that this solar cycle will be as strong as the last solar cycle, which was a “below-average cycle” but not without risks.

Source: Indian Express

India’s First Anti Satellite Missile (A-SAT)

Context:

A Customized My Stamp on India’s First Anti Satellite Missile (A-SAT) launch was released by the Department of Posts on the occasion of Engineers Day.

Mission Shakti:

  • Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully conducted an Anti-Satellite (A-SAT) missile test ‘Mission Shakti’ from Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Island in Odisha on 27th March 2019.
  • A-SAT Missile successfully engaged an Indian orbiting target satellite in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in a ‘Hit to Kill’ mode.
  • Tracking data from range sensors had confirmed that the mission met all its objectives.

A-SAT Missile:

  • It is developed by DRDO.
  • It is an interceptor missile that destroys or jams satellites in space.
  • It is a three-stage missile with two solid rocket boosters.
  • There are two types of A-SATs:
    • Kinetic A-SATs: It is like ballistic missiles physically strike an object in order to destroy it.
    • Non-Kinetic A-SATs: A variety of nonphysical means can be used to disable or destroy a space object. These include frequency jamming, blinding lasers, or cyberattacks.

My Stamp: 

  • ‘My Stamp’ was first introduced in India during the World Philatelic Exhibition, ‘INDIPEX-2011’.
  • It is the brand name for personalized sheets of Postage Stamps of India Post.
  • Customized My Stamp is a personalized sheet of Postage Stamps wherein the corporate, organizations, and institutions can get their customized sheets printed from India Post.

Engineers Day:

  • To mark the birth anniversary of Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya (a civil engineer) 15th September is observed as Engineer’s Day in India.
  • In 1909 he was appointed Chief Engineer of Mysore State given the status of Diwan of Mysore in 1912, awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1955.
  • He was a pioneer in his field, credited for inventing the Block System for dams – the automated doors shut during an overflow.
  • He was the author of two books  “Reconstructing India” and “Planned Economy of India”.

Source: PIB

Discovery of Phosphine Gas in the Atmosphere of Venus

Context:

An international team of astronomers have discovered phosphine gas in the atmosphere of Venus and the possibility of the presence of lifeforms on the neighbouring planet.

Phosphine:

  • It is a colourless but smelly gas, is known to be made only by some species of bacteria that survive in the absence of oxygen.
  • It is produced in industrial processes.

Key findings:

  • A team of scientists have reported traces of phosphine in a concentration of approximately 20 parts per billion, thousands to millions of times more than what could be expected.
  • Scientists have discovered it in the presence of a chemical which is known to be produced only through a biological process, and not through any naturally occurring chemical process.
  • There are some other ways in which this chemical might be produced, for example, in the underbelly of volcanoes or meteorite activity, but that would have shown in much lower concentrations.

Significance:

  • This is the most credible evidence yet for the possibility of life on Venus. Scientists say it is more significant than the discovery of water on the Moon or Mars.
  • In the search for extraterrestrial life, this is the biggest finding.
  • The detection of phosphine had raised Venus “higher up on the ladder of interesting targets” where the possible presence of life-forms can be explored.
  • The finding can further ignite interest in space missions to Venus. Missions to Venus are not new. Spacecraft have been going near the planet since the 1960s, and some of them have even made a landing.
  • ISRO is also planning a mission to Venus, tentatively called Shukrayaan, in the near future. 
  • All future missions to Venus would now be attuned to investigating further evidence of the presence of life.

Life on Venus:

  • The temperature of Venus is too high, and its atmosphere is highly acidic, just two of the things that would make life impossible.
  • But Scientists suggested that this phosphine could be remnants from a time when Venus was a much more hospitable place.
  • This finding opens up many interesting possibilities. Scientists don’t know how long phosphine molecules survive. 

Venus:

  • it is also called Earth’s twin.
  • It is called the morning or an evening star, although it is not a star.
  • Venus has no moon or satellite of its own.
  • It rotates from east to west while the Earth rotates from west to east.
  • It takes 5,832 hours to complete a rotation.

Source: Indian Express

Aatmanirbhar Bharat ARISE-Atal New India Challenges

Context:

Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), NITI Aayog, launched the Aatmanirbhar Bharat ARISE-Atal New India Challenges, to spur applied research and innovation in Indian MSMEs and startups.

Details:

  • The programme will be driven by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and four ministries:
    • Ministry of Defence
    • Ministry of Food Processing Industries 
    • Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
    • Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.

Features:

  • A total of 15 sector-specific challenges will be selected where three challenges are kept for each ministry.
  • The challenge is divided into two broad categories:
    • Art & Innovation
    • Science, Technology & Innovation.
  • A grant-of-aid of up Rs. 50 lakh for a period of 9 to 12 months have been earmarked for startups to develop a minimum usable prototype.
  • Innovators would also be attracted by using the Mahatma Gandhi Challenge method which was launched on the 150th birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

Benefits:

  • The initiative will help promote technopreneurs because of their immense potential of taking India's economy forward.
  • It will support deserving applied research-based innovations by providing funding support of up to Rs 50 lakh for speedy development of the proposed technology solution and/or product.

Role of the ISRO in MSME :

  • ISRO, which is a great promoter of technology, Indian departments and big companies never encourage and promote new startups that have done unique work. For ARISE-ANIC’s success, the government must become the first buyer.
  • ISRO is planning to adopt 100 Atal Tinkering Labs, 3 each in each state and UTs.
  • ISRO has also adopted three thrust areas naming:
    • Use of Artificial Intelligence for weather forecasting and crop monitoring.
    • Use of green propellants, electric propulsion, and advanced air-breathing.
    • Use of AI and Robotics for supporting space exploration and outer space monitoring.

Source: PIB

Chandrayaan-1

Context:

ISRO’s maiden mission to the Moon Chandrayaan-1 has sent images that show that Moon may be rusting along the poles.  

Chandrayaan-1:

  • It was launched in 2008 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
  • It is India's first mission to the moon. The mission included a lunar orbiter and an impactor.
  • India launched the spacecraft using a PSLV-XL rocket.
  • The mission was a major boost to India's space program, as India researched and developed its own technology in order to explore the Moon.

Key Finding:

  • Chandrayaan-1 Moon data indicates that the moon's poles are home to water that scientists are trying to decipher.
  • As per the data from the Mineralogy Mapper (M3), there is the presence of hematite at the lunar poles.
    • Hematite is a form of iron oxide, or rust, produced when the iron is exposed to oxygen and water.
  • The sign of this finding is that even though the surface of the moon is known to have iron-rich rocks, it is not known for the presence of water and oxygen, which are the two elements needed to interact with iron to create rust.
  • Recently, NASA has found evidence of greater quantities of metals such as iron and titanium on the moon’s subsurface.

Reasons for Rusting:

  • The presence of oxygen on Earth could be driving the formation of hematite. Earth’s magnetotail ferries oxygen to the moon and also blocks 99% of the solar wind during certain periods of the moon’s orbit.
  • The solar wind that flows out from the sun bombards earth and the moon with hydrogen.
  • Hydrogen makes it harder for hematite to form. It is a reducer, meaning it adds electrons to the materials it interacts with. That’s the opposite of what is needed to make hematite or iron to rust, which requires an oxidizer, which removes electrons.

Chandrayaan-3:

  • It will launch somewhere in 2021.  Chandrayaan-3 will be a mission repeat of Chandrayaan-2 and will include a Lander and Rover similar to that of Chandrayaan-2, but will not have an orbiter. 

Source: PIB

GW190521 Gravitational Wave

Context:

A collision between two black holes billions of years ago sent gravitational waves rippling through the universe. 

  • GW190521 is a gravitational wave signal resulting from the merger of two black holes near a third supermassive black hole. The event was observed by the LIGO and Virgo detectors in 2019.
  • The signal detected at LIGO and Virgo resembled “about four short wiggles” and lasted less than one-tenth of a second.

Gravitational waves:

  • These waves were proposed by Albert Einstein in his General Theory of Relativity. In 2015, however, the first gravitational wave was detected by LIGO. Since then, there have been a number of subsequent detections of gravitational waves.
  • These are invisible ripples form when a star explodes in a supernova when two big stars orbit each other; and when two black holes merge.
  • These waves travel at the speed of light and squeeze and stretch anything in their path.

Source of gravitational wave:

  • GW190521 had most likely been generated by a merger of two black holes. The signal represented the instant that the two merged. 
  • But these findings led to further questions. One of the two merging black holes falls in an “intermediate-mass” range.
  • Intermediate-mass is a misfit that cannot be explained by traditional knowledge of how black holes form.

New findings:

  • So far all the black holes observed belong to either of the two categories.
    • First category: It ranges between a few solar masses (one solar mass is the mass of our Sun) and tens of solar masses. These are thought to form when big stars die.
    • Second category: It is of supermassive black holes. These range from hundreds of thousands to billions of times that of our sun.
  • According to scientists, stars that could give birth to black holes between 65 and 120 solar masses do not do so. Stars in this range blow themselves apart when they die, without collapsing into a black hole.
  • But in the merger leading to the GW190521 signal, the larger black hole was of 85 solar masses known as the pair-instability mass gap. It is the first “intermediate-mass” black hole ever observed.
  • The two black holes merged to create a new black hole of about 142 solar masses. After merging energy equivalent to eight solar masses was released in the form of gravitational waves. It is the strongest ever wave detected by scientists so far.

Black Holes

  • It is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light can not get out.
  • The gravity is so strong because the matter has been squeezed into a tiny space. This can happen when a star is dying.
  • As no light can get out, they are invisible.
  • Space telescopes with special tools can help find black holes. 
  • Black holes can be big or small, like as small as just one atom or have mass up to 20 times more than the mass of the sun (stellar). 
  • Stellar black holes are made when the center of a very big star falls in upon itself or collapses. When this happens, it causes a supernova.

Source: Indian Express

Scientists discovered One of the Earliest Galaxies

Context:

Scientists of the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics have discovered one of the earliest galaxies in extreme ultraviolet light.

  • AstroSat (multi-wavelength satellite) has detected extreme UV light from a galaxy called AUDFs01, 9.3 billion light-years away from Earth.

Details:

  • Scientists observed the galaxy, which is located in the Extreme Deep field, through AstroSat. In 2016 these observations lasted for more than 28 hours. But it took nearly two years since then to analyze the data to ascertain that the emission is indeed from the galaxy.
  • This clue helps to know how the dark ages of the Universe ended and there was light in the Universe.
    • Since UV radiation is absorbed by Earth’s atmosphere, it has to be observed from space.
  • Earlier, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, which is larger than the Ultra Violet Imaging Telescope on Astrosat, did not detect any UV emission from this galaxy because it is too faint.
  • “AstroSat was able to achieve this feat because the background noise in the Ultra Violet Imaging Telescope detector is much less than the ones on HST.

Dark ages of the Universe:

  • After the Big Bang, the Universe was a hot soup of particles (i.e., protons, neutrons, and electrons).
  • As the universe started to cool, the protons and neutrons began combining into ionized atoms of hydrogen (and eventually some helium).
  • These ionized atoms of hydrogen and helium attracted electrons and turn them into neutral atoms. 
  • Neutral atoms allowed light to travel freely for the first time since this light was no longer scattering off free electrons. The universe was no longer opaque. But there were no stars, and no galaxies and the Universe was dark.
  • After a few hundred million years after the Big Bang, the dark ages ended when the first stars and galaxies formed and the energy pouring out from them ionized the hydrogen and helium, splitting the atoms back again in protons and electrons.

ASTROSAT:

  • It is India’s first dedicated multi-wavelength space observatory. 
  • The ASTROSAT enables the simultaneous multi-wavelength observations of various astronomical objects with a single satellite.
  •  It was launched on a PSLV-XL in 2015
  • ASTROSAT observes the universe in the optical, Ultraviolet, low, and high energy X-ray regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, whereas most other scientific satellites, are capable of observing a narrow range of wavelength band.

Objectives:

  • To understand high energy processes in binary star systems containing neutron stars and black holes
  • Estimate magnetic fields of neutron stars
  • Study star birth regions and high energy processes in star systems lying beyond our galaxy
  • Detect new briefly bright X-ray sources in the sky
  • Perform a limited deep field survey of the Universe in the Ultraviolet region

Payloads of ASTROSAT:

  • Five payloads of ASTROSAT are chosen to facilitate a deeper insight into the various astrophysical processes:
    • The Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (UVIT): It is capable of observing the sky in the Visible, Near Ultraviolet and Far Ultraviolet regions of the electromagnetic spectrum
    • Large Area X-ray Proportional Counter (LAXPC): It is designed to study the variations in the emission of X-rays from sources like X-ray binaries, Active Galactic Nuclei, and other cosmic sources.
    • Soft X-ray Telescope (SXT): It is designed for studying how the X-ray spectrum of 0.3-8 keV range coming from distant celestial bodies varies with time.
    • Cadmium Zinc Telluride Imager (CZTI): It functioning in the X-ray region, extends the capability of the satellite to sense X-rays of high energy in 10-100 keV range.
    • Scanning Sky Monitor(SSM): It is intended to scan the sky for long term monitoring of bright X-ray sources in binary stars, and for the detection and location of sources that become bright in X-rays for a short duration of time.

Source: Indian Express

Asteroid 2018VP1 

Context:

According to NASA, an asteroid (2018VP1) that is on a collision course with Earth could come very close to the planet.

About 2018VP1:

  • The asteroid, dubbed 2018VP, was first discovered at the Palomar Observatory in 2018 in San Diego.
  • Asteroid 2018VP1 is very small, approx. 6.5 feet, and poses no threat to Earth.
  • It currently has a 0.41% chance of entering our planet’s atmosphere, but if it did, it would disintegrate due to its extremely small size.
  • A 13-day observational arc followed, after which the asteroid was not detected again.
  • When it was discovered, the asteroid was around 2,80,000 miles away from the Earth.
  • This year, however, the asteroid could be as close as 4,700 miles according to NASA’s close approach database.

Concerns:

  • As per NASA, there is a 0.41 % chance that 2018VP1 would impact the Earth. Even if the asteroid does enter our planet’s atmosphere, it is unlikely to cause any harm on November 2.
  • There are around 1 billion asteroids having a diameter greater than 1 metre. Objects that can cause significant damage upon impact are larger than 30 metres.
  • The Chicxulub impactor, the celestial object that caused the sudden extinction of most dinosaur species 66 million years ago, had a diameter of over 10 kilometres.
  • 2018VP1 has a diameter of all but 2 metres, around the size of a small automobile, and would likely burn up into after entering the Earth’s atmosphere before reaching the ground. According to NASA, such an event happens about once every year.
  • As per NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations Programme, asteroids that are 140 metres or larger (bigger than a small football stadium) are of “the greatest concern” due to the level of devastation their impact is capable of causing.
    • However, it has been pointed out that no asteroid larger than 140 metres has a “significant” chance of hitting the Earth for the next 100 years.

Ways to deflect asteroids:

  • Scientists have already suggested different ways to ward off threats from the asteroid before it reaches Earth, or deflecting it off its Earth-bound course by hitting it with a spacecraft.
  • The most drastic measure undertaken so far is the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA) includes NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission and the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Hera.
    • Hera: It is scheduled to launch in 2024. It will arrive at the Didymos system in 2027 to measure the impact crater produced by the DART collision and study the change in the asteroid’s orbital trajectory.
  • The mission’s target is Didymos, a binary near-Earth asteroid, one of whose bodies is of the size that could pose the most likely significant threat to Earth.
  • In 2018, NASA announced it had started the construction of DART, which is scheduled to launch in 2021 with an aim to slam into the smaller asteroid of the Didymos system at around 6 km per second in 2022.

Source: Indian Express

Ceres is Now an Ocean World

Context:

Scientists from NASA have now given Ceres (dwarf planet) the status of an “ocean world” after analyzing data collected by Dawn spacecraft.

Earlier findings:

  • Ceres has a big reservoir of salty water underneath its frigid surface. 
  • The salty water originated in a brine reservoir spread hundreds of miles and about 40 km beneath the surface of the Ceres.
  • Further, there is evidence that Ceres remains geologically active with cryovolcanism - volcanoes oozing icy material.
  • Instead of molten rock, cryovolcanoes, or salty-mud volcanoes release frigid, salty water sometimes mixed with mud.

Ocean world means:

  • Ocean Worlds is a term for ‘Water in the Solar System and Beyond’.
  • Ceres is a crucial piece of the ocean world. It has a crust that mixes ice, salts, rock-forming minerals, and other materials,
  • Ceres looks to be a remnant “ocean world,” wearing the chemistry of its old ocean and records of the interaction on its surface.”
  • Scientists are exploring ocean worlds because they may support life.
  • In 2018, the spacecraft dipped to less than 35 km above the surface of the dwarf planet, due to which it was able to collect data in a higher resolution.
  • Now, by analyzing this data scientists have determined that Ceres has a brine reservoir located about 40 km deep and which is hundreds of miles wide.

Dwarf Planets:

  • According to the International Astronomical Union (IAU), a dwarf planet is a celestial body that orbits the sun, has enough mass to assume a nearly round shape, has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit and is not a moon.
  • There are officially five dwarf planets in Solar System Pluto, Eris, Makemake, Haumea, and Ceres.
  • The sixth claimant for a dwarf planet is Hygiea, which so far has been taken to be an asteroid.
  • Earlier, astronomers found that Hygiea may possibly be a dwarf planet since it satisfied the four criteria set by IAU for a dwarf planet.
  • However, an ocean world in Ceres was not expected, since it is too far away from the Sun and is too small to have radioactive materials to keep the oceans liquid for most of the dwarf planet’s history.
  • There are other dwarf planets and moons where oceans exist such as the moons of Saturn and Jupiter.

About Ceres:

  • It is the largest celestial object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
  • Ceres has a diameter of about 950 km, which is more than one-fourth of Earth’s moon.
  • There is a 92 km wide crater named Occator located in Ceres’ northern hemisphere. This crater is said to have formed by an impact approximately 22 million years ago.

Source: Indian Express

The Perseids Meteor Shower

Context:

The Perseids meteor shower is going to be active from August 17-26. This is an annual celestial event and is considered the best meteor shower, as many bright meteors and fireballs shoot through the sky making it easy for people to watch it from Earth.

Meteors: 

  • Meteors are bits of rock and ice that are ejected from comets as they maneuver around their orbits around the sun.
  • For instance, the Orionids meteors emerge from the comet 1P/Halley and make their yearly presence in October.

Meteor showers:

  • Meteor showers are witnessed when Earth passes through the trail of debris left behind by a comet or an asteroid.
  • When a meteor reaches the Earth, it is called a meteorite and a series of meteorites, when encountered at once, is termed as a meteor shower.
  • According to NASA, over 30 meteor showers occur annually and are observable from the Earth.
  • As meteors fall towards the Earth, the resistance makes the space rocks extremely hot and, as meteorites pass through the atmosphere, they leave behind streaks of glowing gas that are visible to the observers and not the rock itself.

Perseids meteor shower:

  • The Perseids meteor shower was first observed over 2,000 years ago. It peaks every year in mid-August.
  • The Perseids occur as the Earth runs into pieces of cosmic debris left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle.
  • The cloud of debris is about 27 km wide, and at the peak of the display, between 160 and 200 meteors streak through the Earth’s atmosphere every hour as the pieces of debris, traveling at some 2.14 lakh km per hour, burn up a little less than 100 km above the Earth’s surface.

Source of perseids meteor showers:

  • The comet Swift-Tuttle takes 133 years to complete one rotation around the sun. The last time it reached its closest approach to the sun was in 1992 and will do so again in 2125.
  • Every time comets come close to the sun, they leave behind dust that is essentially the debris trail, which the Earth passes through every year as it orbits around the Sun.

Visibility of Meteor:

  • According to NASA, these meteor showers are best viewed from areas in the Northern Hemisphere in pre-dawn hours.
  • Meteors are best visible on a cloudless night, when the sky is visible and when the Moon is not extremely bright.
  • Chances of a successful viewing are higher from locations far away from the lights of cities.
  • Pollution and monsoon clouds make the Perseids difficult to view from India. But in areas where there is no light or air pollution, viewers do not need to use any special equipment to view the showers.

Source: Indian Express

Dwarf Planet Ceres

Context:

According to the data collected by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, dwarf planet Ceres reportedly has salty water underground.

About Ceres:

  • It is the largest celestial object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
  • The scientists have given Ceres the status of an “ocean world” as it has a big reservoir of salty water underneath its frigid surface.
    • Ocean Worlds is a term for ‘Water in the Solar System and Beyond’.
  • This has led to an increased interest of scientists that the dwarf planet was maybe habitable or has the potential to be.
  • This new understanding of Ceres has been made possible because of the data collected by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft when it flew just 35 km over the surface of Ceres in 2018.
  • Ceres has a diameter of about 950 km, which is more than one-fourth of Earth’s moon.
  • There is 92 km wide crater named Occator located in Ceres’ northern hemisphere. This crater is said to have formed by an impact approximately 22 million years ago.

Key findings:

  • Ceres has a big reservoir of salty water underneath its frigid surface. 
  • The salty water originated in a brine reservoir spread hundreds of miles and about 40 km beneath the surface of the Ceres.
  • Further, there is an evidence that Ceres remains geologically active with cryovolcanism - volcanoes oozing icy material.
  • Instead of molten rock, cryovolcanoes or salty-mud volcanoes release frigid, salty water sometimes mixed with mud.

Dwarf Planets:

  • According to the International Astronomical Union (IAU), a dwarf planet is a celestial body that orbits the sun, has enough mass to assume a nearly round shape, has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit and is not a moon.
  • Ceres, Pluto, Eris, Makemake and Haumea are the first five dwarf planets.