Weekly Current Affairs Prelims (7th to 13th October, 2018)

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Weekly Current Affairs Prelims (7th to 13th October, 2018)

 

Topic: Parker Solar Probe

Topic in syllabus : General Science

Why in news: 

NASA’s historic mission- Parker Solar Probe- to solve the mysteries of the Sun has successfully completed its flyby of Venus on October 3rd. The probe successfully completed its flyby of Venus at a distance of about 1,500 miles during the first Venus gravity assist of the mission.

These gravity assists will help the spacecraft tighten its orbit closer and closer to the Sun over the course of the mission.

What next?

Throughout its mission, the probe will make six more Venus gravity assist and 24 total passes by the Sun. This manoeuvre will change Parker Solar Probe’s trajectory to take the spacecraft closer to the Sun.

 

About the mission:

What is it? 

NASA’s historic Parker Solar Probe mission will revolutionize our understanding of the sun, where changing conditions can propagate out into the solar system, affecting Earth and other worlds. Parker Solar Probe will travel through the sun’s atmosphere, closer to the surface than any spacecraft before it, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions — and ultimately providing humanity with the closest-ever observations of a star.

Journey: 

In order to unlock the mysteries of the sun’s atmosphere, Parker Solar Probe will use Venus’ gravity during seven flybys over nearly seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer to the sun. The spacecraft will fly through the sun’s atmosphere as close as 3.9 million miles to our star’s surface, well within the orbit of Mercury and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before.

Goals: 

The primary science goals for the mission are to trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona and to explore what accelerates the solar wind as well as solar energetic particles.

Parker Solar Probe has three detailed science objectives:

  1. Trace the flow of energy that heats and accelerates the solar corona and solar wind.
  2. Determine the structure and dynamics of the plasma and magnetic fields at the sources of the solar wind.
  3. Explore mechanisms that accelerate and transport energetic particles.

About Corona:

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Our Sun is surrounded by a jacket of gases called an atmosphere. The corona is the outermost part of the Sun’s atmosphere.

The corona is usually hidden by the bright light of the Sun’s surface. That makes it difficult to see without using special instruments. However, the corona can be seen during a total solar eclipse.

Image of the solar corona during a total solar eclipse on Monday, August 21, 2017 above Madras, Oregon. Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

During a total solar eclipse, the moon passes between Earth and the Sun. When this happens, the moon blocks out the bright light of the Sun. The glowing white corona can then be seen surrounding the eclipsed Sun.


Why is the corona so dim?

The corona reaches extremely high temperatures. However, the corona is very dim. Why? The corona is about 10 million times less dense than the Sun’s surface. This low density makes the corona much less bright than the surface of the Sun.

Why is the corona so hot?

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The corona’s high temperatures are a bit of a mystery. Imagine that you’re sitting next to a campfire. It’s nice and warm. But when you walk away from the fire, you feel cooler. This is the opposite of what seems to happen on the Sun.

Astronomers have been trying to solve this mystery for a long time. The corona is in the outer layer of the Sun’s atmosphere—far from its surface. Yet the corona is hundreds of times hotter than the Sun’s surface.

A NASA mission called IRIS may have provided one possible answer. The mission discovered packets of very hot material called “heat bombs” that travel from the Sun into the corona. In the corona, the heat bombs explode and release their energy as heat. But astronomers think that this is only one of many ways in which the corona is heated.

Coronal loops and streamers

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The surface of the Sun is covered in magnetic fields. This is the force that makes magnets stick to metal, like the door of your refrigerator.

The Sun’s magnetic fields affect charged particles in the corona to form beautiful features. These include streamers, loops, and plumes. We can view these features in detail with special telescopes.

How does the corona cause solar winds?

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The corona extends far out into space. From it comes the solar wind that travels through our solar system. The corona’s temperature causes its particles to move at very high speeds. These speeds are so high that the particles can escape the Sun’s gravity.

Why study corona?

The corona is hotter than the surface of the sun. The corona gives rise to the solar wind, a continuous flow of charged particles that permeates the solar system. Unpredictable solar winds cause disturbances in our planet’s magnetic field and can play havoc with communications technology on Earth. Nasa hopes the findings will enable scientists to forecast changes in Earth’s space environment.

Why do we study the sun and the solar wind?

  • The sun is the only star we can study up close. By studying this star we live with, we learn more about stars throughout the universe.
  • The sun is a source of light and heat for life on Earth. The more we know about it, the more we can understand how life on Earth developed.
  • The sun also affects Earth in less familiar ways. It is the source of the solar wind; a flow of ionized gases from the sun that streams past Earth at speeds of more than 500 km per second (a million miles per hour).
  • Disturbances in the solar wind shake Earth’s magnetic field and pump energy into the radiation belts, part of a set of changes in near-Earth space known as space weather.
  • Space weather can change the orbits of satellites, shorten their lifetimes, or interfere with onboard electronics. The more we learn about what causes space weather – and how to predict it – the more we can protect the satellites we depend on.
  • The solar wind also fills up much of the solar system, dominating the space environment far past Earth. As we send spacecraft and astronauts further and further from home, we must understand this space environment just as early seafarers needed to understand the ocean.

Facts for Prelims:

  • The previous closest pass to the Sun was by a probe called Helios 2, which in 1976 came within 27 million miles (43 million km).
  • By way of comparison, the average distance from the Sun for Earth is 93 million miles (150 million km).

 

Sample question:

Q. Which of the following is not correct regarding Sun’s corona?

a) The corona gives rise to the solar wind, a continuous flow of charged particles that permeates the solar system.

b) The corona is hotter than the surface of the sun.

c) The corona is about 10 million times denser than the Sun’s surface.

d) All are correct

 


 

Topic : National Dolphin Research Centre (NDRC)

 Topic in syllabus: General issues on Environmental Ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change

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Why in news: 

India’s and Asia’s first Dolphin Research Centre will be set up on the banks of the Ganga river in Patna University campus in Patna, Bihar. It will be named- National Dolphin Research Centre (NDRC).

The announcement for the centre was made on the occasion of Dolphin day (October 5), observed in Bihar for protection and conservation of Gangetic river dolphin to create awareness to save endangered species.

Role:

NDRC will play important role in strengthening conservation efforts and research to save endangered mammal whose population is decreasing. Bihar is home to around half of the country’s estimated 3,000 dolphin population.

About Gangetic Dolphins:

  • The Ganges River dolphin, or susu, inhabits the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh.
  • It is classified as endangered by the IUCN.
  • This dolphin is among the four “obligate” freshwater dolphins – the other three are the baiji now likely extinct from the Yangtze river in China, the bhulan of the Indus in Pakistan and the boto of the Amazon River in Latin America. Although there are several species of marine dolphins whose ranges include some freshwater habitats, these four species live only in rivers and lakes.
  • Being a mammal, the Ganges River dolphin cannot breathe in the water and must surface every 30-120 seconds. Because of the sound it produces when breathing, the animal is popularly referred to as the ‘Susu’.

Threats:

The survival of the Ganges River dolphin is threatened by unintentional killing through entanglement in fishing gear; directed harvest for dolphin oil, which is used as a fish attractant and for medicinal purposes; water development projects (e.g. water extraction and the construction of barrages, high dams, and embankments); industrial waste and pesticides; municipal sewage discharge and noise from vessel traffic; and overexploitation of prey, mainly due to the widespread use of non-selective fishing gear.

 

Sample Question:

Considers the following statements about Gangetic Dolphins?

  1. The Ganges River dolphin, or susu, inhabits the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh.
  2. It is classified as endangered by the IUCN.

Which of the above is/are correct?

a) 1 only

b) 2 only

c) Both

d) None

 


 

Topic: Canine distemper virus (CDV)

Topic in syllabus General issues on Environmental Ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change 
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Why in news: 

Gujarat Forest Department has started vaccination of lions in Gir sanctuary to protect them from a deadly canine distemper virus (CDV). The virus is blamed for the death lions in Gujarat’s Gir sanctuary in last one month.

What is Canine Distemper Virus?

  • Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) is a viral disease that infects the gastrointestinal, respiratory, and central nervous systems. Dogs who have not been vaccinated for Canine Distemper are the most at-risk. While the disease can also be contracted when improperly vaccinated or when a dog has high susceptibility to bacterial infection, these cases are rare.
  • CDV can be spread through direct contact (licking, breathing air, etc.) or indirect contact (bedding, toys, food bowls, etc.), though it cannot live on surfaces for very long. Inhaling the virus is the primary method of exposure. There is no known cure for CDV.

What’s the issue?

The magnificent Asiatic lion is under threat. Twenty-three lions have died in as many days in the eastern part of Gujarat’s Gir sanctuary. This case is more worrisome as the big cat population in Gujarat is the last of the Asiatic lions in the wild.

Facts

  • Gir sanctuary is the only wild population of Asiatic lions in the world.
  • It is listed in Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, has been categories as Endangered on IUCN Red List and is listed Appendix I of CITES.

 

Sample question:

Q. Which Sanctuary/National Park was recently in news for vaccination of its inhabitants from Canine Distemper Virus?

a) Ranthambhore National Park, Rajasthan

b) Nagarhole National park, Karnataka

c) Kaziranga Sanctuary, Assam

d) Gir sanctuary, Gujarat

 


 

Topic: Chhotu ram

Topic in syllabus: History of India and Indian National Movement

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Why in news:

 A 64-foot-tall statue of peasant leader Sir Chhotu Ram has been unveiled at his native village Sampla in Haryana’s Rohtak district.

About Sir Chhotu Ram:

  • Sir Chhotu Ram, who was born on November 24, 1881, was regarded as a messiah of peasantsand was instrumental in empowering farmers in pre-Independence era and getting pro-farmers law enacted. He had fought for farmers’ rights during the British rule.
  • On political front, he was a co-founder of the National Unionist Partywhich ruled all the time Panjab Province in per-Independent India and kept Congress and Muslim League at bay.
  • Chhotu Ram was awarded the title of ‘Rao Bahadur’. He was knighted in 1937 and was popularly known as Deen Bandhu.
  • His legacy has been evoked by the formation of a new party, the National Unionist Zamindara Partyby guar farmers in Rajasthan in 2013.

 

Sample question:

Q. Sir Chhotu Ram is known for his work for empowering which segment of population?

a) Students

b) Widows

c) Farmers

d) None of the above

 


 

Topic: How are Cyclones named?

Topic in syllabus: Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc.

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Why in news: 

Cyclonic storm ‘TITLI’ has hit the Bay of Bengal and another cyclonic storm ‘LUBAN’ has hit the Arabian sea.

How are cyclones named?

In September 2004, an international panel on tropical cyclones decided that countries from the region would each put in names, which would be assigned to storms in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea.

  • Eight countries — India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Sri Lanka and Thailand – participated and came up with a list of 64 names.
  • In the event of a storm, the Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre, New Delhi, selects a name from the list.

Why it is necessary to name cyclones?

The late origin of this naming system — unlike storms in the Atlantic, which have been getting named since 1953 — was ostensibly to protect sensitivities in the ethnically diverse region.

The purpose of the move was also to make it easier for “people easily to understand and remember the tropical cyclone/hurricane in a region, thus to facilitate disaster risk awareness, preparedness, management and reduction.

Guidelines for naming cyclones:

Citizens can submit names to the Director General of Meteorology, IMD, for consideration, but the weather agency has strict rules for the selection process.

  • A name, for instance, ‘should be short and readily understood when broadcast’.
  • The names must also be neutral, ‘not culturally sensitive and not convey some unintended and potentially inflammatory meaning’.
  • Furthermore, on the account of the ‘death and destruction’ a storm in the Indian Ocean causes, their names are retired after use, unlike those in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific lists, which are reused every few years.

Cyclone categories:

  • Category 1: Wind and gales of 90-125 kph, negligible house damage, some damage to trees and crops.
  • Category 2: Destructive winds of 125-164 kph. Minor house damage, significant damage to trees, crops and caravans, risk of power failure.
  • Category 3: Very destructive winds of 165-224 kph. Some roof and structural damage, some caravans destroyed, power failure likely.
  • Category 4: Very destructive winds of 225-279 kph. Significant roofing loss and structural damage, caravans destroyed, blown away, widespread power failures.
  • Category 5: Very destructive winds gusts of more than 280 kph. Extremely dangerous with widespread destruction.

Names reused every six years:

Atlantic and Pacific storm names are reused every six years, but are retired “if a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of the name would be insensitive or confusing,” according to forecasters at the US National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Cyclone season:

The country’s cyclone season runs from April to December, with severe storms often causing dozens of deaths, evacuations of tens of thousands of people from low-lying villages and wide damage to crops and property.

What’s the difference between hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons?

  • Hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are all tropical storms. They are all the same thing but are given different names depending on where they appear. When they reach populated areas they usually bring very strong wind and rain which can cause a lot of damage.
  • Hurricanes are tropical storms that form over the North Atlantic Ocean and Northeast Pacific. Cyclones are formed over the South Pacific and Indian Ocean. Typhoons are formed over the Northwest Pacific Ocean.

 

Sample question:

Q. Which of the following is NOT correct regarding naming of cyclones?

a) Citizens can submit names to the Director General of Meteorology, IMD, for consideration, but the weather agency has strict rules for the selection process.

b) A name should be short and readily understood when broadcast.

c) The names must also be neutral, ‘not culturally sensitive and not convey some unintended and potentially inflammatory meaning’.

d) Names of storms in the Indian Ocean, Atlantic and Pacific are reused every few years.

 


 

Topic : Global Hunger Index

Topic in syllabus: Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion,

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Why in news: 

The 2018 Global Hunger Index report has been released. The report is a peer-reviewed publication released annually by Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide.

The GHI scores are based on a formula that captures three dimensions of hunger—insufficient caloric intake, child undernutrition, and child mortality—using four component indicators:

  • UNDERNOURISHMENT:the share of the population that is under-nourished, reflecting insufficient caloric intake
  • CHILD WASTING:the share of children under the age of five who are wasted (low weight-for-height), reflecting acute undernutrition.
  • CHILD STUNTING:the share of children under the age of five who are stunted (low height-for-age), reflecting chronic undernutrition.
  • CHILD MORTALITY:the mortality rate of children under the age of five.

Performance of India:

  • India has been ranked at 103 out of 119 countries in the Global Hunger Index 2018, with hunger levels in the country categorized as “serious”.
  • At least one in five Indian children under the age of five is wasted. The only country with a higher prevalence of child wasting is the war-torn nation of South Sudan.
  • India’s ranking has dropped three places from last year, although the Index says its results are not accurately comparable from year to year and instead provides a few reference years for comparable data.
  • India has shown improvement in three of the indicators over the comparable reference years. The percentage of undernourished people in the population has dropped from 18.2% in 2000 to 14.8% in 2018. The child mortality rate has halved from 9.2% to 4.3%, while child stunting has dropped from 54.2% to 38.4% over the same period.

Concerns:

  • The report terms hunger and forced migration for the severity worldwide.
  • Globally, the level of hunger still falls into the “serious” category, despite improvement over the last two decades.
  • The Index projects that at the current rate of progress, 50 countries will fail to reach the “low” hunger category by 2030.
  • This puts the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 2, which aims to end hunger by 2030, in jeopardy.

Way ahead:

Child wasting is high across South Asia, constituting a “critical public health emergency”. Wasting rates are highest for infants aged 0 to 5 months. Therefore, attention to birth outcomes and breastfeeding is important. Also, child wasting in the region is associated with a low maternal body mass index. Hence, there is need for a focus on the nutritional status of the mother during pregnancy.

Factors that could reduce child stunting in South Asia include increased consumption of non-staple foods, access to sanitation, women’s education, access to safe water, gender equality, and national food availability.

 

Sample question:

Q. The GHI scores are based on a formula that captures three dimensions of hunger using four component indicators. Which of the following is not one of these indicators?

a) undernourishment

b) child wasting

c) child stunting

d) All are correct

 


Topic : 100k Genome Asia Project

Topic in syllabus: General Science

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Why in news: 

A group of Indian scientists and companies are involved with a 100k GenomeAsia project, led out of the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, to sequence the whole genomes of 100k Asians, including 50,000 Indians.

About 100k Genome Asia Project:

  • A non-profit consortium called GenomeAsia 100K has announced an ambitious plan to sequence 100,000 Asian individuals in hopes of accelerating precision medicine applications for Asian populations.
  • It will also leverage on big data analytics and advances in data science and artificial intelligence. Participants from 12 South Asian countries and at least seven North and East Asian countries will be selected.
  • In the first phase, the project will focus on creating phased reference genomes for all major Asian ethnic groups—representing a major step forward in understanding the population history and substructure of the region.
  • The sequencing of 100,000 individual genomes will be paired with microbiome, clinical and phenotype information to allow deeper analysis of diseased and healthy individuals in the context of inferred local ancestries.

Significance:

With recent insights into the genome diversity of Asian ethnicities, it will become possible to understand the biology of disease in the currently under-studied Asian populations that represent 40 percent of humankind.

Furthermore, the unique genetic diversity prevalent in South, North and East Asia provides a valuable source of clinical insights that should enhance our understanding of several rare and inherited diseases, as well as chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

 

Sample question:

Q. A group of Indian scientists and companies are involved with a 100k GenomeAsia project to sequence the whole genomes of 100k Asians, including 50,000 Indians. The project is led out of the Nanyang Technological University (NTU). Where is the university located?

a) Japan

b) China

c) Singapore

d) Vietnam