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GS Paper I- History and Geography of the World and Society.

NASA To Launch Parker Solar Probe To Explore Sun’s Outer Atmosphere.

Background-

  • Dreams of sending a spacecraft to explore the big ball of seething energy that warms our planet have been on NASA’s bucket list for 60 years, and now the ambitious mission to touch the Sun is in its final phase before launch.
  • Originally called the Solar Probe Plus, the mission was renamed overnight in honour of astrophysicist Professor Eugene Parker, who predicted the existence of high-speed solar winds — the mass of particles that are spewed into space from the Sun.
  • Set to kick off July, 2018, the plan is to plunge the Parker Solar Probe into the Sun’s corona — the hazy bit one can see around the edges of the Sun during a total solar eclipse — to study this phenomenon.

Highlights Of The Development–

  • The car-sized spacecraft will get closer to the Sun than any other mission ever has.
  • Travelling at the dizzying speed of more than 720,000 kilometres per hour, the probe will eventually come within less than 6.4 million kilometres of the Sun’s surface.
  • This may not sound particularly close — but if you think of the Sun and Earth as being 1 metre apart, then our spacecraft would be located just 4 centimetres from the Sun, said Dr Fox, who is overseeing the build of the spacecraft.
  • The probe will be in regions of the corona where temperatures exceed 1,400 degrees Celsius.
  • People have been studying the Sun for thousands of years, and even though we now have remote sensing observatories and spacecraft that examine it in spectacular detail, many questions still remain.
  • The two big ones are: 1.Why is the corona on the outside of the Sun at least 300 times hotter than the surface? 2.Why does the solar wind speed up?
  • When large events such as sunspots or coronal mass ejections happen, they can have dramatic effects on our planet, causing spectacular aurorae but also disrupting communication systems.
  • By understanding how this solar wind is generated and modified in this region close to the Sun, we can better predict what could impact our planet.
  • The mission was first proposed in 1958 and it has taken this long to be develop the technologies to make the mission a reality, Dr Fox said.
  • The front of the spacecraft will have a shield, 2.3 metres wide and 11 centimetres thick, made up of a special carbon foam sandwiched between two thin sheets. The front face will be covered in aluminium oxide to reflect light and heat.
  • So while the shield will get up to a toasty 1,400C, the instruments inside will stay at room temperature.

Sources- ABC News.

 

GS Paper II- Governance, Social Justice.

Arunachal Pradesh Declared Open Defecation Free.

Background

  • Arunachal Pradesh on 31st December, 2017 emerged as the second state in the Northeast, after Sikkim, to be declared Open Defecation Free.
  • The three remaining districts – Upper Subansiri, Siang and Changlang — were declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) officially on 31st, an official release said.
  • Arunachal has 21 districts and the state attained the feat much before the national deadline of October 2, 2019.
  • The state government had cut short the ODF target by one year and 10 months ahead of the national target and set December 31, 2017 as the deadline.

 

Highlights Of The Development-

  • The project undertaken under Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) SBM (G) saw the light of day only after the state government extended an incentive of Rs 8,000 per toilet. This is in addition to the Centre’s support of Rs 12,000, raising the grant for constructing a toilet to Rs 20,000.
  • The state government also launched Swachh Arunachal Mission on October 2, 2017 at Tawang which envisaged the Swachh Protocol (Cleanliness Protocol) aimed at ensuring sustainability of assets created under SBM (Gramin).
  • Chief Minister Pema Khandu said while crediting the accomplishment to the people that he is personally overwhelmed to find people participating in the construction of toilets even in remote villages along the international borders like Vijaynagar, Taksing, Pipsorang despite communication bottlenecks requiring strenuous trekking for days together carrying construction materials along with ration on head load.
  • State Public Health Engineering & Water Supply Minister Bamang Felix said that now they attain freedom from open defecation. They have finally won the battle and liberated themselves from the open defecation menace. The tiring and rigorous fight against open defecation was a herculean task but not impossible.

Sources- The Indian Express.

GS Paper III- Bio-Diversity.

Nyctibatrachus Mewasinghi: New Night Frog Species Discovered In Western Ghats.

 

Background

  • A new frog from Kerala is the latest contribution to the spurt in amphibian discoveries across India: scientists have just discovered the Mewa Singh’s Night frog, belonging to a genus endemic to the Western Ghats, from Kozhikode’s Malabar Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • According to a scientific paper published on December 26, 2017 in The Journal of Threatened Taxa (an international journal on conservation and taxonomy), the new night frog Nyctibatrachus mewasinghi is light brown in colour with an off-white underside, and sports faintly wrinkled skin with prominent granular projections.
  • Since many frogs in the genus Nyctibatrachus look similar, scientists from institutes, including the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (Pune, Maharashtra) and the Zoo Outreach Organisation (ZOO, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu) used both physical characteristics as well as genetic methods to confirm the frog as a new species.

 

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Highlights Of The Development-

  • Using tissue samples of 10 collected specimens, the scientists analysed portions of two genes and found that it varied enough from other closely-related species to make the Mewa Singh’s night frog a different species.
  • They also found that the frog’s genetically closest relatives are the Athirappilly night frog (found south of the Palakkad Gap in Thrissur and Idukki) and the Kempholey night frog (found in the northern Western Ghats of Kerala and Karnataka).
  • Morphologically, the Mewa Singh’s night frog can be distinguished from these similar-looking and genetically close relatives by several physical characteristics, including the pattern of its webbed fingers and toes. The frog has been named after wildlife scientist Mewa Singh, in honour of his contributions to behavioural ecology and primate studies.
  • The new frog is currently known only from Peruvannamuzhi in the Malabar Wildlife Sanctuary, where the scientists found it in a small stream running along the Peruvannamuzhi dam.
  • It is an interesting species because of this currently-known restricted distribution.
  • What is unusual is that the frog’s genetically closest relative — the Athirappilly night frog — is found far away and across the Palakkad gap, hence the species is also unique from a genetic perspective.
  • Frogs in the genus Nyctibatrachus, commonly known as night frogs, are found only in the Western Ghats mountain range. The addition of the Mewa Singh’s night frog to this group brings the total number of night frogs to 36.

Sources- The Hindu.