Current Affairs - Science & Technology
Recently, during Prime Minister’s visit to the United States, India took significant steps towards furthering its space exploration endeavors by joining the Artemis Accord.
- The Accords align closely with NASA's Artemis program, which aims to return to the moon, establish a permanent presence, and further explore deep space.
- Signing of Artemis Accords: India officially joined the Artemis Accords, a US-led alliance aimed at fostering international cooperation in planetary exploration and research. Established in October 2020, the Accords consist of 13 principles that promote peaceful and collaborative space exploration.
- By becoming a signatory, India commits to adhering to these principles, which include the peaceful use of space, safety cooperation, and sharing scientific data.
- Joint ISRO-NASA Mission to the International Space Station: ISRO and NASA are developing a strategic framework for human spaceflight cooperation.
- Laboratory in Space: As part of this collaboration, the two space agencies plan to undertake a joint mission to the International Space Station, a permanent laboratory in space.
- Comprise 26 Countries: The Artemis Accords currently comprise 26 countries, including traditional US allies and nations with developing space programs. (Notably, China and Russia have not joined the initiative).
Recently, an international team of scientists from India, Germany, Switzerland and the USA discovered a new Jupiter-size exoplanet with the highest density known till this date.
The key findings are:
- Telescope: The discovery of the massive exoplanet was made using the indigenously made PRL Advanced Radial-velocity Abu-sky Search spectrograph (PARAS) at the 1.2 m telescope of the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) at its Gurushikhar Observatory in Mt. Abu by measuring the mass of the planet precisely.
- The Star: The newly discovered exoplanet is found around the star called TOI4603 or HD 245134.
- The Planet: Using PARAS, the scientists discovered it as a planet by measuring the mass of the secondary body and hence, the planet is called TOI 4603b or HD 245134b.
- Location: It is located 731 light years away.
- It orbits a sub-giant F-type star TOI4603 every 7.24 days.
- It orbits very close to its host star at a distance less than 1/10th the distance between our Sun and Earth.
- Mass: The new exoplanet has a mass 13 times that of Jupiter.
The detection of the new exoplanet provides valuable insights into the formation, migration, and evolution mechanisms of massive exoplanets.
On 8 May 2023, scientists announced that they had observed a bloated star swallowing a Jupiter-like planet and then expelling some material into space in a belch.
- The researchers used the Zwicky Transient Facility at Caltech's Palomar Observatory to spot the star rapidly become 100 times brighter and then figured out why this happened.
- Located in the Milky Way galaxy: The star is in the early stages of the red giant phase, located in the Milky Way galaxy about 12,000 light-years from the Earth.
- Depleted Hydrogen Fuel: The star depleted hydrogen fuel in its core, causing it to expand.
- Resembling the Solar System: The planet, classified as a "hot Jupiter," is similar in appearance to the solar system's largest planet and is several times larger than Jupiter. The planet orbited its star in less than a day.
- As the star grew, its surface drew closer to the planet's orbit.
- Sudden Plunge of the Planet: The planet plunged suddenly into the star, powering the emission that scientists observed.
- A Glimpse of Earth's Fate: This event is a glimpse of the fate that awaits Earth, Mercury, Venus, and other planets as the sun evolves through its red giant phase in about 5 billion years.
According to a recent study, four of Uranus's largest moons - Titania, Oberon, Umbriel and Ariel - could have subsurface oceans.
- Structure of the Moons: The study utilized data from NASA's Voyager spacecraft and new computer modeling to analyze the composition and structure of all five large Uranus moons.
- Four Biggest Moons: Uranus has a total of 27 moons orbiting around it. Amongst this the four biggest moons range in size from 1,160 km (Ariel) to 1,580 km (Titania) across.
- Four Moons Could Hold Oceans: The study suggests that these four moons could hold oceans that are potentially dozens of kilometers deep, and could potentially be warm enough to support life.
- Source of Heat in the Moons' Mantles: The research also found a potential source of heat in the moons' mantles, which releases hot liquid that could help maintain a warm environment.
Future space missions could investigate these subsurface oceans to see what they are made of and whether they can be habitable.
Recently, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) said that the exercise to sequence 10,000 Indian human genomes and create a database under the Centre-backed Genome India Project is about two-thirds complete.
- The Genome India Project aims to identify genetic variants in the Indian population to customize therapies.
- 7,000 Indian genomes have already been sequenced, with 3,000 available for public access by researchers.
- Genome sequencing is the process of decoding the genetic fingerprint of an individual by deciphering the order of base pairs that make up the human genome.
- It has various applications, including rare disorder evaluation, preconditions for disorders, cancer diagnosis, and prenatal screening.
- Genomic sequencing played a vital role in tracking the spread of COVID-19 and developing vaccines during the pandemic.
- The Genome India Project is expected to have significant implications for personalized medicine, disease diagnosis, and population health.
- Sequencing is becoming cheaper, and experts predict that every individual's genome may be sequenced as part of routine healthcare in the future.
A new study has revealed insights on Mars’ core.
- Mars' core is smaller and less dense than previously thought, likely in a liquid state.
- Mars' innermost layer cannot generate a magnetic field, unlike Earth's core.
- Seismic data from NASA's InSight Mars Lander used to examine Mars' interiors.
- Light elements like sulfur and oxygen make up a fifth of the core's weight.
- New data could inform better models of how Earth and Mars formed.
- InSight mission retired, but scientists are still analyzing the gathered data to learn more about Mars.
- Planetary seismologists are excited about future missions to other parts of the solar system to understand its formation.
InSight Mission (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) was a robotic mission to Mars launched by NASA in May 2018. Its objective was to study the deep interior of the planet, including its seismology, geodesy, and heat flow. InSight landed on Mars in November 2018 and operated on the planet's surface for over two years, during which it deployed a suite of scientific instruments, including a seismometer, a heat probe, and a radio science instrument, to collect data about the planet's interior.
Recently, astronomers have detected a repeating radio signal from YZ Ceti b, a rocky, earth-sized exoplanet rotating around a small red dwarf star, YZ Ceti, just 12 light-years from Earth.
- The discovery of a magnetic field around an exoplanet suggests that it could be a habitable planet.
- The radio waves were confirmed to exist by the interaction between the planet's magnetic field and the star.
- The existence of an exoplanetary magnetic field confirms the presence of a rocky exoplanet in close proximity to its star.
- The radio waves are strong enough to be picked up on Earth.
- Intense bursts of energy from the YZ Ceti star-exoplanet exchange produce spectacular auroral lights, similar to the disruptions caused by energy surges from the sun on Earth and orbiting satellites.
- Astronomers hope that further research will confirm these results and help them learn more about the rocky netherworlds that exist in the deepest reaches of space.
Recently, Indian scientists working in the Garbh-Ini programme have identified 19 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), or genetic markers, that have been found to be associated with preterm birth.
- The study was conducted by the Garbh-Ini team on 6,211 women from Haryana through a genome-wide association study (GWAS) on spontaneous preterm birth.
- Preterm birth is a significant cause of neonatal deaths and complications globally, and around 13% of babies born annually in India are born preterm.
- The study found that 5 SNPs increase the risk of early preterm birth (birth before 33 weeks) and can predict premature births.
- 4 SNPs found in the cohort were significantly associated trans-ethnic SNPs, which showed association both in Indian women as well as in women belonging to the European ancestral population.
- The study is important for public health, especially in India and Southeast Asia, as preterm births are one of the leading causes of neonatal deaths.
- The research could help doctors identify women at risk of preterm delivery and monitor them closely.
- The study is significant since preterm birth is the largest cause of neonatal deaths and complications globally.
Recently, researchers in the UK have discovered that graphene, a single-atom-thick layer of carbon atoms, displays an anomalous Giant Magnetoresistance (GMR) at room temperature.
- GMR is a property of materials where electrical resistance is affected by adjacent magnetic fields.
- Graphene-based devices are commonly used to sense magnetic fields.
- Researchers found that a graphene-based device could sense magnetic fields without needing to be cooled to very low temperatures.
- This is unlike conventional devices used for the same purpose.
- The magnetoresistance observed in the graphene-based device was almost 100 times higher than other known semimetals in this magnetic field range.
- This discovery could be used in applications that require magnetic-field sensing in extreme conditions.
Recently, the Union Cabinet has approved a project to build an advanced gravitational-wave detector in Maharashtra.
- LIGO-India will be the third of its kind, made to the exact specifications of the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatories (LIGO) in Louisiana and Washington in the U.S.
- It is expected to be completed by 2030.
- It will work in tandem with the LIGO observatories in the U.S.
- The facility will enable the global network of LIGO gravitational wave detectors to study gravitational waves emitted by very massive objects in the universe in extreme environments.
- The project is collaboration between a consortium of Indian research institutions and the U.S. observatories, plus several international partners.
Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatories (LIGO) are highly sensitive scientific instruments that are designed to detect the tiny ripples or distortions in space-time known as gravitational waves.
- These ripples are caused by the collision of very massive objects such as black holes or neutron stars, and can provide important insights into the nature of the universe.
- The LIGO observatories use laser beams to detect these waves by measuring the minute changes in the length of two perpendicular arms of the observatory caused by the passing gravitational wave.