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January 3rd week 2015 current affairs
Author : uppy
Category : Science & Technology Current
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January 3rd week 2015 current affairs

1) NASA to launch drought-tracking satellite

  • A new satellite expected to be launched this month will improve drought monitoring around the world, the US space agency said in a statement. The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite will provide the best maps yet of soil moisture levels from pole-to-pole. The satellite, which will be carried aloft by a Delta II rocket, is likely to be launched on January 29 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
  • Soil moisture is one of the key factors in estimating drought severity; it also influences local weather, adds to hazards such as flooding, and plays a role in how plants store and release carbon.
  • Data from the satellite will track global soil moisture levels for the top two inches of the Earth`s surface every two to three days. Scientists will for the first time get a bird`s-eye view of drought patterns; for instance, they will watch where droughts begin and end, and how droughts spread across large areas.
  • The mission is planned to last three years, at a cost of $916 million (including launch), but the instruments could last several years longer. The soil moisture maps will help farmers who depend on rain to irrigate crops. The SMAP satellite`s most prominent feature is its rotating mesh antenna, which measures nearly six meters across - the largest ever deployed in space.

2) Mars probe found 11 years after disappearing

  • A British-built space probe, thought lost on Mars since 2003, has been found on the surface of the Red planet, ending the mystery of what happened to the mission more than a decade ago, the UK Space Agency said on 16th January.
  • Beagle-2 was released from its mother craft on December 19, 2003 and was due to land six days later. But nothing was heard from the lander after its scheduled touchdown.
  • Now, over a decade later, the lander has been identified in images taken by the high-resolution camera on NASA`s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). This find shows that the Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) sequence for Beagle 2 worked and the lander did successfully touchdown on Mars on Christmas Day 2003, the agency said.
  • Beagle 2 hitched a ride to Mars on ESA`s Mars Express mission and was a collaboration between industry and academia.
  • Images taken by the HiRISE camera on MRO have identified clear evidence for the lander and convincing evidence for key entry and descent components on the surface of Mars within the expected landing area of Isidis Planitia (an impact basin close to the equator).
  • Subsequent re-imaging and analysis by the Beagle 2 team, HiRISE team and NASA`s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has confirmed that the targets discovered, are of the correct size, shape, colour and dispersion (separation) to be Beagle 2, the agency said.

3) 102 Indian Science Congress

  • The 102nd edition of Indian Science Congress was held in Mumbai from January 3,2015 to January 7,2015. It was inaugurated by Current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi in Mumbai University. Studies and papers on Ancient Indian Vedas were presented in this Congress. Accomplishments of Ancient Indian Science in the fields of medicine,mathematics,surgery etc. were presented. There was also a session on India`s successful Mars Orbiter Mission.

4) Indian Science Congress 2015

  • The Indian Science Congress has discussed Ancient Indian efforts, in founding various scientific aspects, including Pythogaras therom, earth shape.. etc. The symposium on “Ancient Sciences through Sanskrit” that included a paper on the existence of interplanetary aircraft in India around 9,000 years ago, references to “cosmic connection” and a phenomenon explained as “fusion of science and spirituality due to inter-penetration law.”
  • Held under the aegis of Mumbai University, this is the first time in its 102-year history that the Congress has included such a session, a move hailed by delegates as long overdue but criticised by many as mixing of science with mythology.
  • Seven papers were presented over the five-hour session. Papers were invited by the Department of Sanskrit, Mumbai University, and Kavi Kulaguru Kalidas University, Ramtek, and reviewed by the Mumbai University’s Department of Sanskrit. Some authors were professionals from varied fields, while others were students of Sanskrit.
  • One paper, co-authored by Captain Anand Bodas, retired head of a pilot training centre, and Ameya Jadhav, a teacher, claimed there was evidence of ancient aviation in the Rigveda.
  • Captain Bodas told that knowledge of making aeroplanes existed between 6 and 7000 BC. An ancient Indian sage, he said, had also talked of a radar system, which depended on the “basic principle that any animate or inanimate object radiates energy all the time. We know that when radiation stops, that object is considered dead.”
  • Other papers spoke about how Indian texts were the first to talk about the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, a constant known as pi, the Pythagoras theorem, classification of plants, veterinary science and metallurgy.
  • According to Gauri Mahulikar, head of Sanskrit department of Mumbai University in the Sulbha Sutra written in 800 BCE, Baudhayan wrote the geometric formula now famously known as Pythagoras theorem. It was written by Baudhayan 300 years before Pythagoras. Sulbha Sutra was also the first to crack the pi ratio.
  • Delegates called for serious inter-disciplinary research between various branches of science and ancient Sanskrit texts.

About Indian Science Congress:

  1. The Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA) owes its origin to the foresight and initiative of two British Chemists, namely, Professor J. L. Simonsen and Professor P.S. MacMahon.

The Association was formed with the following objectives :

  1. To advance and promote the cause of science in India
  2. To hold an annual congress at a suitable place in India
  3. To publish such proceedings, journals, transactions and other publications as may be considered desirable.
  4. To secure and manage funds and endowments for the promotion of Science inlcuding the rights of disposing of or selling all or any portion of the properties of the Association.
  5. To do and perform any or all other acts, matters and things as are conductive to, or incidental to, or necessary for, the above objects.

  6. The first meeting of the Congress was held from January 15-17, 1914 at the premises of the Asiatic Society, Calcutta, with the Honourable Justice Sir Asutosh Mukherjee, the then Vice-Chancellor of the Calcutta University, as President. One hundred and five scientists from different parts of India and abroad attended and the papers numbering 35 were divided into six sections-Botany, Chemistry, Ethnography, Geology, Physics, Zoology under six Sectional Presidents.


5) Light Water Reactor work started

  • India has started work on fabricating a Light Water Reactor (LWR) of 900 MWe (megawatt electric) for electricity generation, a reactor technology that differs from the heavy water reactors that form the mainstay of the country’s nuclear power programme currently.
  • The Department of Atomic Energy is in the process of preparing detailed designs of the 900 MWe pressurised water reactor for approval by the regulatory authority — the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB). The design builds on the indigenously developed small-sized LWR developed over the past eight years, a compact version of which was deployed aboard the INS Arihant — the first Indian nuclear-powered submarine.
  • The family of LWRs, cooled and moderated using ordinary water, tend to be simpler and cheaper to build than other types of nuclear reactors, due to which they make up the majority of civil nuclear reactors — including those built by the Russian, French and US firms — as well as naval propulsion reactors in service across the world.
  • The LWR project is a joint effort between the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL). A new Special Uranium Enrichment Facility to fuel the LWR reactor has also been proposed at Chitradurga, Karnataka.
  • Unlike the natural uranium and heavy water-based Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs), which constitute the mainstay of India’s nuclear power programme, LWRs (such as pressurised water reactors and boiling water reactors) use enriched uranium as fuel and ordinary water as both the moderator and coolant. Incidently, India’s atomic power programme commenced in the early sixties with two imported LWR units (of the boiling water reactor-type) at Tarapur of 160-MWe capacity, each set up by Bechtel and GE under US assistance. that became operational in 1969.
  • The next reactor was a 100MWe unit set up with Canadian assistance at Rawatbhata four years later, based on which, the NPCIL kicked off its indigenous programme with the design of its 220-MWe PHWRs. Subsequently, the indigenous PHWRs of 540-MWe capacity were developed and NPCIL is currently setting up four newly developed 700-MWe PHWRs at Kakrapar and Rawatbhata.
  • Of India’s current installed nuclear power capacity of 4,780 MWe, a total of 4,160 MWe is based on the indigenous PHWR technology and 620 MW on foreign technical cooperation using LWR technology.
  • Two 1000 MWe units of the Kudankulam nuclear power project built with assistance from Russia also use LWR reactors while three more sites are being readied for setting up projects deploying LWRs of three different types — the French EPRs (1650MWe of Areva), Toshiba Westinghouse’s AP1000 and GE-Hitachi’s ESBWR.

6) 3 Earth-like planets up there: NASA

  • In a major find, NASA`s Kepler Space Telescope has discovered three new Earth-size habitable or ‘Goldilocks’ zones around Sun-like stars. Of the three, two are likely made of rock like our Earth. Of more than 1,000 verified planets found by Kepler, eight are less than twice Earth-size and in their stars` habitable zone. All eight orbit stars are cooler and smaller than our Sun, the US space agency said in a statement.
  • Two of the newly validated planets, Kepler-438b and Kepler-442b, are less than 1.5 times the diameter of Earth. Kepler-438b, 475 light-years away, is 12 per cent bigger than Earth and orbits its star once every 35.2 days.Kepler-442b, 1,100 light-years away, is 33 per cent bigger than Earth and orbits its star once every 112 days.
  • Both Kepler-438b and Kepler-442b orbit stars smaller and cooler than our Sun, making the habitable zone closer to their parent star in the direction of the constellation Lyra.




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