16th Nov, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘Asteroid crater’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: Buried beneath a half mile of snow and ice in Greenland, scientists have uncovered an impact crater large enough to swallow the District of Columbia. The finding suggests that a giant iron asteroid smashed into what is today a glacier during the last ice age, an era known as the Pleistocene Epoch that started 2.6 million years ago.
Significance of this discovery
The discovery could lead to insights into the ice age climate, and the effects on it from the eruption of debris that would have resulted from such a cataclysmic collision.
The aerial survey confirmed there was a huge pit with an elevated, circular rim and uplifting structures in the center, all telltale signs of an impact crater. The team’s analysis showed that the Hiawatha crater was nearly 1,000 feet deep and 20 miles in diameter, placing it among Earth’s 25 largest impact craters, although much smaller than the 90-mile crater left by the dino-busting Chicxulub impact.
The area’s sediments also had high concentrations of nickel, cobalt, chromium, gold and platinum, an indicator that the meteorite was made of iron.
What Are The Differences Between An Asteroid, Comet, Meteoroid, Meteor and Meteorite?
Asteroid: A relatively small, inactive, rocky body orbiting the Sun.
Comet: A relatively small, at times active, object whose ices can vaporize in sunlight forming an atmosphere (coma) of dust and gas and, sometimes, a tail of dust and/or gas.
Meteoroid: A small particle from a comet or asteroid orbiting the Sun.
Meteor: The light phenomena which results when a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere and vaporizes; a shooting star.
Meteorite: A meteoroid that survives its passage through the Earth’s atmosphere and lands upon the Earth’s surface.
Size and Frequency
Every day, Earth is bombarded with more than 100 tons of dust and sand-sized particles.
- About once a year, an automobile-sized asteroid hits Earth’s atmosphere, creates an impressive fireball, and burns up before reaching the surface.
- Every 2,000 years or so, a meteoroid the size of a football field hits Earth and causes significant damage to the area.
- Only once every few million years, an object large enough to threaten Earth’s civilization comes along. Impact craters on Earth, the moon and other planetary bodies are evidence of these occurrences.
- Space rocks smaller than about 25 meters (about 82 feet) will most likely burn up as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere and cause little or no damage.
- If a rocky meteoroid larger than 25 meters but smaller than one kilometer ( a little more than 1/2 mile) were to hit Earth, it would likely cause local damage to the impact area.
- At 5.4 kilometers in diameter, the largest known potentially hazardous asteroid is Toutatis.
- By comparison, asteroids that populate the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and pose no threat to Earth, can be as big as 940 kilometers (about 583 miles) across.
‘Super-earth’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: The proposed new planet is unlike anything in our own solar system, the researchers say – larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune, and far enough from its dim, red sun that any water on its surface is locked away in ice.
About this new discovery
This frozen “super Earth,” the second-closest exoplanet known to science, is a tantalizing clue to what else might be out there. And in the not-so-distant someday when telescopes become capable of photographing planets around other stars, it may well be the first new world we see.
Other Exo-planet discovery
Barnard’s Star has long been “the great white whale” of exoplanet hunting. It’s just six light-years from our sun, and possibly twice as old. One of the main architects of exoplanet research, the astronomer Peter van de Kamp, proposed more than 50 years ago that this star could host a planet. In the 1970s, British astronomers studied the possibility of sending an un-crewed starship to probe the alien system – even though there wasn’t any evidence a planet existed to be explored. But it wasn’t until the first exoplanet discovery was confirmed in 1995 that the search for a world around Barnard’s Star began in earnest. This red dwarf is a 10th the mass of our sun and too faint to be seen with the naked eye. But its low mass makes it ideal for analysis using the radial velocity technique of exoplanet detection, which exploits the way a planet’s gravitational pull makes a star wobble as it orbits around it.
What is an Exo-planet?
An exoplanet or extra-solar planet is a planet outside the Sun’s solar system. The first evidence of an exoplanet was noted as early as 1917, but was not recognized as such. However, the first scientific detection of an exoplanet was in 1988, although it was not confirmed to be an exoplanet until later in 2012. The first confirmed detection occurred in 1992. As of 1 November 2018, there are 3,874 confirmed planets in 2,892 systems, with 638 systems having more than one planet.
There are many methods of detecting exoplanets. The High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) has discovered about a hundred exoplanets since 2004, while the Kepler space telescope has since 2009 has found more than two thousand. Kepler has also detected a few thousand candidate planets, of which up to 40% may be false positives. In several cases, multiple planets have been observed around a star. About 1 in 5 Sun-like stars have an “Earth-sized” planet in the habitable zone. Assuming there are 200 billion stars in the Milky Way, one can hypothesize that there are 11 billion potentially habitable Earth-sized planets in the Milky Way, rising to 40 billion if planets orbiting the numerous red dwarfs are included.
The least massive planet known is Draugr, which is about twice the mass of the Moon. The most massive planet listed on the NASA Exoplanet Archive is HR 2562 b, about 30 times the mass of Jupiter, although according to some definitions of a planet, it is too massive to be a planet and may be a brown dwarf instead.
‘Electric vehicles’ (GS3: Infrastructure)
Issue: Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd on Wednesday unveiled plans to invest as much as ₹1,000 crore in Karnataka to build a facility for the development and manufacturing of electric vehicles (EVs).
Mahindra, which mainly produces sport-utility vehicles and tractors, will implement the project through its subsidiary, Mahindra Electric. The firm will also build components for EVs at the so-called electric technology manufacturing hub in Bengaluru.
About the project
- The facility is expected to have an annual capacity of 70,000 vehicles by 2020. Mahindra also plans to supply electric vehicle parts from the facility to other companies wanting to build their own electric vehicles.
- The facility is part of Mahindra’s strategy to keep its leadership of India’s electric vehicle industry at a time when the union government is urging auto makers to locally produce electric vehicles.
The government is also working on a policy to promote eco-friendly vehicles in a bid to cut rampant pollution in major cities.
‘Open Defecation Free (ODF)’ (GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: Shri Parameswaran Iyer, Secretary, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, congratulated the team from Jharkhand for declaring the State as Open Defecation Free.
About Swach Bharat campaign
Swachh Bharat Mission is a massive mass movement that seeks to create a Clean India by 2019. The father of our nation Mr. Mahatma Gandhi always puts the emphasis on swachhta as swachhta leads to healthy and prosperous life. Keeping this in mind, the Indian government has decided to launch the swachh bharat mission on October 2, 2014.The mission will cover all rural and urban areas. The urban component of the mission will be implemented by the Ministry of Urban Development, and the rural component by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
The programme includes elimination of open defecation, conversion of unsanitary toilets to pour flush toilets, eradication of manual scavenging, municipal solid waste management and bringing about a behavioural change in people regarding healthy sanitation practices.
The mission aims to cover 1.04 crore households, provide 2.5 lakh community toilets, 2.6 lakh public toilets, and a solid waste management facility in each town. Under the programme, community toilets will be built in residential areas where it is difficult to construct individual household toilets. Public toilets will also be constructed in designated locations such as tourist places, markets, bus stations, railway stations, etc. The programme will be implemented over a five-year period in 4,401 towns.
‘World GIS Day 2018’ (GS3: Technology)
Issue: National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) organized a brainstorming session on World GIS Day 2018 in New Delhi, with the theme ‘G-Governance of Namami Gange programme through Geospatial Technology’.
The objective of the session was to share the knowledge on use and application of geospatial technology for monitoring and management of various activities being undertaken under Namami Gange Programme, and also provide feedback on the current use of this technology with reference to Ganga Basin. The brainstorming session brought together decision makers, technocrats and implementing agencies for an engaging discussion.
GIS and river basin management
- Geographical Information System (GIS) technology is widely used in river basin management. The Namami Gange programme has high priority for research and evidence based decision making, and has special place for the use of new technology including Geospatial technology. NMCG is already executing a number of research projects based on Geospatial technology.
- NMCG has signed an MoU with National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) in the use of geospatial technology in June 2015. They have developed Bhuvan Ganga Geoportal and Bhuvan Ganga Mobile Application
Bhuvan Ganga Geoportal is available for water quality monitoring, hydrological monitoring, geomorphological monitoring, bio-resources monitoring, and comprehensive geospatial database.
National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) was registered as a society on 12th August 2011 under the Societies Registration Act 1860.It acted as implementation arm of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) which was constituted under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act (EPA), 1986.
NMCG has a two tier management structure and comprises of Governing Council and Executive Committee. Both of them are headed by Director General, NMCG. Executive Committee has been authorized to accord approval for all projects up to Rs.1000 crore. Similar to structure at national level, State Programme Management Groups (SPMGs) acts as implementing arm of State Ganga Committees. Thus the newly created structure attempts to bring all stakeholders on one platform to take a holistic approach towards the task of Ganga cleaning and rejuvenation.
‘Himalayan State Regional Council’ (GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: NITI Aayog has constituted the ‘Himalayan State Regional Council’ to ensure sustainable development of the Indian Himalayan region. The Council has been constituted to review and implement identified action points based on the Reports of five Working Groups, which were established along thematic areas to prepare a roadmap for action.
The Himalayan States Regional Council will be the nodal agency for the Sustainable development in the Himalayan Region which consists of the twelve States namely Jammu &Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, two districts of Assam namely Dima Hasao and KarbiAnglong and Darjeeling and Kalimpong in West Bengal.
Terms of reference to the council
The terms of reference of the Council states that it shall monitor the implementation of action points for Central Ministries, Institutions and 12 Himalayan State Governments in Indian Himalayan Region which include river basin development and regional cooperation, spring mapping and revival across Himalayas in phased manner for water security; develop, implement and monitor tourism sector standards as well as bring policy coherence, strengthen skill & entrepreneurship with focus on identified priority sectors, among other action points.
Arecibo Observatory (GS3: Science)
Issue: The quest of humankind to find company in the vast universe went one step further when a group of scientists sent a “message” to a faraway cluster of stars, hoping that any aliens living there would receive it and reciprocate. Friday marks the 44th anniversary of this interstellar communication
About the project
On November 16, 1974, a group of scientists including Frank Drake, the creator of the Drake equation, and American astronomer Carl Sagan sent a less-than-three-minute radio message to Messier 13 (M13), a globular cluster in the constellation of Hercules which is 25,000 light years away. The message consisted of 1,679 binary digits, approximately 210 bytes, transmitted at a frequency of 2,380 MHz and modulated by shifting the frequency by 10 Hz, with a power of 450 kW. The message was sent from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
In the 44 years since it was first transmitted, the message has travelled 259 trillion miles, only a tiny fraction of the 146,965,638,531,210,240 or so miles to its final destination
‘India-China ties’ (GS2: Bilateral relations)
Issue: India and China are set to expand their military ties, in tune with the spirit of the Wuhan informal summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April.
New mechanisms to improve ties
- During talks between visiting Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra and his Chinese counterpart Shao Yuanming, both sides agreed to add another layer of exchanges between the military personnel of the two countries.
- The two sides stressed the need to “further strengthen military-to-military ties in order to strengthen political and strategic mutual trust between the two countries
- For the first time, cadets from Indian and Chinese military academies, as well mid-level officers, will meet each other regularly.
‘World tolerance day’ (Facts that can be asked in prelims)
Issue: Today, the world celebrates the 23rd International Day for Tolerance.
About this celebration
The United Nations General Assembly, in 1996, invited member states to observe the International Day for Tolerance on November 16, every year. The activities for the day take account of both educational establishments and the extensive communities. Procreated by UNESCO, every year, the occasion is to be consecrated to a universal value — an epitome of the community of nations for centuries. This year, the United Nations is hosting a screening of videos from YouTube’s 2018 Creators for Change Impact Project.