04&05, June 2017

1.Mongolia to send its first satellite to space

Source: Indian Express

Named after Mongolia’s endangered gobi bear Mazaalai, Mongolia’s first satellite will be sent to space on June 4.

Key facts:

  • The satellite will accompany the “SpaceX Falcon 9” rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida through a project supported by UNESCO and Japan.
  • The Joint Global Multi-Nation Birds Satellite is a cross-border interdisciplinary satellite project for non-space-faring nations, aimed at supporting developing countries to build and launch their first satellite.
  • During this two-year project, 15 students from participating countries including Mongolia, Ghana, Japan, Bangladesh and Nigeria shall design, develop and operate five units of identical 1U CubeStats, a type of miniaturised satellite for space research.
  • Mongolia can contact the satellite being sent off 400km away from the earth 5-6 times a day. Having a satellite brings many advantages, such as the ability to conduct independent space studies, capture the geographic picture of a country, develop more accurate maps, and better prevent natural disasters.

2.Citizen scientists find cold new world near solar system

Source: The Hindu

A brown dwarf over 100 light years away from the Sun has been discovered using a new citizen science tool that helps astronomers pinpoint new worlds lurking in the outer reaches of our solar system.

Backyard Worlds project

  • The Backyard Worlds project lets anyone with a computer and an Internet connection flip through images taken by NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft.
  • If an object is close enough to Earth, it will appear to “jump” when multiple images taken of the same spot in the sky a few years apart are compared.
  • The goal for Backyard Worlds volunteers — of which there are more than 37,000 — is to flag the moving objects they see in these digital flipbooks for further investigation by the science team. So far, volunteers have classified more than 4 million flipbooks.

Brown dwarfs

  • Brown dwarfs are objects which have a size between that of a giant planet like Jupiter and that of a small star. In fact, most astronomers would classify any object with between 15 times the mass of Jupiter and 75 times the mass of Jupiter to be a brown dwarf.
  • Given that range of masses, the object would not have been able to sustain the fusion of hydrogen like a regular star; thus, many scientists have dubbed brown dwarfs as “failed stars”.

3.CSIR faces fund crunch, asks labs to look outside

Source: The Hindu

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research is staring at a fund crunch this year. Hence, CSIR’s chief has asked the directors of all of the organisation’s 38 labs to look outside of the CSIR to meet their expenses.

In any given year, the CSIR— with a ₹4,000 crore annual budget — apportions out about ₹1,200-1,400 crore to its labs for research. This year only about ₹360 crore would be available. Pay panel and pension payouts along with scrapping of plan panel’s block grants has crippled the scientific organisation.

CSIR

  • It was established as an autonomous body that has emerged as the largest research and development organisation in India.
  • It runs several laboratories and field stations or extension centres throughout the nation, with a collective staff of over 17,000 workers.
  • Although it is mainly funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology, it operates as an autonomous body through the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
  • The research and development activities of CSIR include aerospace engineering, structural engineering, ocean sciences, life sciences, metallurgy, chemicals, mining, food, petroleum, leather, and environmental science.

4.What is Zika virus?

Source: The Hindu

What is Zika?- It can also be transmitted sexually.

  • Zika is an arbovirus infection which occurs through the bite of several different species of Aedes mosquitoes, including the Aedes aegypti which is active during the day;
  • It can also be transmitted sexually.
  • The virus was first isolated from a rhesus monkey in Uganda in the Zika forest, near the western shore of Lake Victoria, in 1947, and hence the name.
  • The mosquito-borne virus spread in many African and Asian countries but caused no harm.
  • But in 2007, more than a hundred cases were reported at Yap, a tiny island in the south-western Pacific. Six years later, Zika spread to French Polynesia, where nearly 30,000 people required medical attention.
  • Among them, more than 70 people had severe neurological symptoms and 40 contracted the Guillain-Barré syndrome, in which the immune system attacks the nervous system, sometimes resulting in paralysis.

How did it come about?

  • In north-eastern Brazil, towards the end of 2015 and within months after the outbreak, the Zika virus was seen to have a possible link to birth defects in babies. While nearly 80% of the people infected with Zika did not have symptoms, the infection became dangerous if it occurred during the early stages of pregnancy.
  • In some cases, if the virus attacked the brain tissue of the foetus, it led to microcephaly, a condition that results in babies being born with tiny heads, causing severe neurological disorders.
  • By the end of January 2016, 4,200 suspected cases of microcephaly were reported, and the virus spread to several other Latin American countries and to the Caribbean, with El Salvador, Jamaica and Colombia advising women to delay pregnancy.
  • Last year, on February 1, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Zika a public health emergency of international concern. The WHO issued an advisory to pregnant women to avoid travelling to countries with an outbreak of the Zika virus.

Why does it matter?

  • Besides being spread by mosquitoes, the sexual route of transmission was confirmed in France by last February-end; in a matter of days the WHO said sexual transmission of the virus is “relatively common.”
  • And by mid-April, in a turning point in the Zika virus outbreak, the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the virus caused severe foetal brain defects.
  • Though it was widely suspected, scientists finally pinned down the Aedes aegypti mosquito, common in many tropical countries including India, as the vector responsible for transmitting the virus.

The virus can be spread through blood transfusion.

  • It has also turned up in urine, tears and saliva, but it is not confirmed that it can spread through them.
  • Since the virus can stay in semen longer than in blood, the WHO recommended that couples abstain from sex for at least six months after a man has been diagnosed with Zika.

Countries affected by Zika Virus

  • Besides spreading to a few States in the U.S, the virus reached closer to India when it was reported in Singapore last August: 330 cases in two months. The virus soon spread to Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Myanmar. In mid-November 2016, the WHO declared that the Zika emergency was over.
  • The U.S. reported nearly 4,600 Zika cases by December. Even as Brazil announced the end of its public health emergency on May 12 this year, the virus appeared in India. Between November 2016 and February 2017, India reported three locally transmitted cases (two women and a man) of Zika in Gujarat; but the news came to light only on May 26, 2017 when the WHO published it on its website.

What next?

  • A year after the WHO declared Zika a public health emergency, there has been some positive news on the vaccine front.
  • A single dose of Zika vaccine made from the Zika virus showed promise in mice and monkeys.
  • More than 40 Zika vaccine candidates are in the pipeline and five are entering human clinical trials (Phase I). Back home, the Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech’s Zika vaccine was found to confer 100% protection on mice. The company has just begun clinical trials in humans (Phase I) in two centres in India.

5.First Biodiversity Heritage Site in India: fish for everyone

Source: The Hindu

Ameenpur Lake becomes the first Biodiversity Heritage Site in the country. Fish and birds return, but much remains to be done.

Ameenpur Lake:

  • On the western fringes of Hyderabad, surrounded by fantastic primordial rock formations, modern apartments, factories and a village, is a sprawling and ancient man-made lake.
  • Ameenpur Lake dates back to the time of Ibrahim Qutb Shah, who ruled the kingdom of Golconda between 1550 and 1580.
  • According to one account, the tank was excavated to irrigate a large public garden. The lake is now divided into two parts called Pedda Ameenpur and Chinna Cheruvu.
  • Spread across 93 acres, the lake is still less than a third of its original size of 300 acres because of rampant encroachment.
  • Ameenpur Lake has the distinction of being the first water body in the country to be declared a Biodiversity Heritage Site. The biodiversity tag was awarded for the Pedda Ameenpur Lake, which is at a higher elevation than Chinna Cheruvu.

The lake brims with life:

  • Bar-headed geese, cormorants, ruddy shelducks, and grey herons.
  • The checkered keelback snake snaps up fish and buffaloes wallow in the deep end.
  • Farmers harvest paddy at the shoreline. The teeming birdlife was one of the reasons Ameenpur Lake caught the imagination of the average person; birders and photographers throng the lake to catch sight of flamingos, pelicans and cormorants swallowing fish or—even better—birds swooping down to steal a fish from a water snake.

6.The 10 facts you need to know about ISRO’s GSLV-Mk III

Source: The Hindu

The GSLV-Mk III-D1 launcher would carry GSAT-19 satellite which has a mass of 3,200 kg.

The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III (GSLV-Mk III), the heaviest rocket ever made by India and capable of carrying large payloads, is set for launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on June 5, 2017.

Here are a few facts you need to know about the rocket.

  1. GSKV-Mk III is capable of launching four-tonne satellites in the Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).
  2. The rocket is also capable of placing up to eight tonnes in a Low Earth Orbit (LEO), enough to carry a manned module.
  3. GSLV-Mk III’s first developmental flight, D1, will carry on June 5 the GSAT-19 satellite — developed to help improve telecommunication and broadcasting areas.
  4. This is India’s first fully functional rocket to be tested with a cryogenic engine that uses liquid propellants — liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.
  5. It took about 25 years, 11 flights and over 200 tests on different components of the rocket for it to be fully realised.
  6. The 640-tonne rocket, equal to the weight of 200 fully-grown Asian elephants, is the country’s heaviest but shortest rocket with a height of 43 metre.
  7. GSLV-Mk III is a three-stage vehicle with two solid motor strap-ons (S200), a liquid propellant core stage (L110) and a cryogenic stage (C-25).
  8. ISRO successfully conducted the static test of its largest solid booster S200 at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), Sriharikota on January 24, 2010. The successful test of S200, which forms the strap-on stage for the GSLV, makes it the third largest solid booster in the world. The static test of liquid core stage (L110) of GSLV-Mk III launch vehicle was done at ISRO’s Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre test facility as early as March 2010.
  9. C-25, the large cryogenic upper stage of the GSLV, is the most difficult component of the launch vehicle to be developed. ISRO successfully ground-tested the indigenously developed C-25 on February 18, 2017.
  10. If successful, the GSLV-Mk III — earlier named as Launch Vehicle Mark-3 or LVM-3 — could be India’s vehicle of choice to launch people into space.

7.Tiny Orang roars on tiger density

Source: The Hindu

Orang, the tiger reserve in Assam with the smallest core among 50 nationally protected areas, has presented wildlife scientists doing a census with a surprise: a high density of 28 big cats.

  • The count was revealed during phase IV of the all-India tiger estimation programme of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

Orang, the tiger reserve:

  • Spread over Darrang and Sonitpur districts and notified in February 2016, Orang Tiger Reserve is the 49th in the country. It has the smallest core of 78.28 sq. km., and the cat density was revealed during a census done between January and March 2017. Kamlang Tiger Reserve in Arunachal is the 50th and latest to be notified.
  • Whatever we know about tiger ecology is from reserves such as Corbett and Kanha. It has not been studied in the Brahmaputra flood plains like Kaziranga and Orang.
  • A Wildlife Institute of India and NTCA report last year titled The Status of Tigers, Co-predators and Prey in India, said the density in Kaziranga National Park was 12.72 per 100 sq. km., followed by Jim Corbett National Park (11) in Uttarakhand and Bandipur National Park (10.28) in Karnataka.

Core-buffer division

  • Orang’s buffer area is 413.18 sq. km., but experts say the boundary between the core and buffer is sharp and not contiguous forest as in other reserves of Assam.
  • Agni Mitra, regional director of Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and tiger biologist said the tiger reserves from Uttarakhand to Nepal, parts of Bihar and north Bengal and in Assam in the ‘Terai arc landscape” sustains grassland and a good prey base.

‘Terai arc landscape”

  • The Terai Arc Landscape (TAL) is an 810km stretch between the river Yamuna in the west and the river Bhagmati in the east, comprising the Shivalik hills, the adjoining bhabhar areas and the Terai flood plains
  • It is spread across the Indian states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and the low lying hills of Nepal.
  • The landscape boasts of some of India’s most well-known Tiger Reserves and Protected Areas such as Corbett Tiger Reserve, Rajaji National Park, Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, Valmiki Tiger Reserve and Nepal’s Bardia Wildlife Sanctuary, Chitwan National Park, and Sukhla Phanta Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • In total, the landscape has 13 Protected Areas, nine in India and four in Nepal, covering a total area of 49,500 km2, of which 30,000km2 lies in India.

NTCA:

  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority is a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change constituted under enabling provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, as amended in 2006, for strengthening tiger conservation, as per powers and functions assigned to it under the said Act.
  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority has been fulfilling its mandate within the ambit of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 for strengthening tiger conservation in the country by retaining an oversight through advisories/normative guidelines, based on appraisal of tiger status, ongoing conservation initiatives and recommendations of specially constituted Committees.

 



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