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09 November Current Affairs

EARTH’S WATER A RESULT OF ASTEROID IMPACTS AND LEFTOVER GAS FROM SUN’S BIRTH

In News:

According to a recent study, Earth’s global ocean water may have originated from both asteroidal material and gas left over from the formation of the Sun. The study gives insights about the development of other planets and their potential to support life.

Details:

The study notes that since comets contain a lot of ices, it could have supplied some water. Asteroids, which are not as water-rich yet still plentiful, could be a source as well.

Background:

The early ocean known as Arabia was formed 4 billion years ago on Mars, while the Deuteronilus ocean was formed 3.6 billion years ago. Both coexisted with the massive volcanic province Tharsis, located on the unseen side of the planet, which may have helped support the existence of liquid water; the water is now gone, perhaps frozen underground and partially lost to space, while the ancient seabed is known as the northern plains.

The study challenges widely-accepted ideas about hydrogen in Earth’s water by suggesting the element partially came from clouds of dust and gas remaining after the Sun’s formation, called the solar nebula.

Significance:

The new finding fits neatly into current theories of how the Sun and the planets formed. It also has implications for habitable planets beyond the solar system. Astronomers have discovered more than 3,800 planets orbiting other stars, and many appear to be rocky bodies not greatly different from our own.

Source: The Hindu

Dredging Corporation Of India

In News:

Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved strategic disinvestment of 100% Government of India’s shares in Dredging Corporation of India Limited (DCIL) to consortium of four ports.

Details:

The consortium of four ports consists of Vishakhapatnam Port Trust (Andhra Pradesh), Paradeep Port Trust (Odisha), Jawahar Lal Nehru Port Trust (Maharashtra) and Kandla Port Trust (Gujarat).

Present status:

Presently, Central Government holds 73.44% shares in DCIL.

Benefits:

Strategic sale of DCIL will further facilitate linkage of dredging activities with ports, keeping in view the role of DCIL in expansion of dredging activity in the country as well as potential scope for diversification of ports into third party dredging.

The co-sharing of facilities between company as well as ports shall lead to savings for ports. This will also further provide opportunities for larger investment in DCIL as integration with ports shall help ineffective vertical linkage in value chain.

About Dredging Corporation of India Limited (DCIL):

It is miniratna public sector unit (PSU) engaged in the business of dredging. It was established in March 1976 and is headquartered in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. It reports to the Ministry of Shipping.

It does dredging for Indian seaports exclusively. It is involved in capital dredging, beach nourishment, and land reclamation.

Source: The Hindu

Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPR)

In News:

The Union Cabinet has approved the filling of Padur Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPR) in Karnataka by overseas National Oil Companies (NOCs).

Key facts:

The filling of the SPR will be under PPP model and is being undertaken to reduce budgetary support of Union Government. The SPR facility at Padur is underground rock cavern with total capacity of 2.5 million metric tonnes (MMT) having four compartments of 0.625 MMT each.

Background:

India has built 5.33 million tons of underground reserves in three locations, including Padur, under an earlier phase that can meet 9.5 days of the country’s oil needs. The government purchased crude to fill the caverns in Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and half of another facility in Mangalore in Karnataka, while leasing out the other half to Abu Dhabi National Oil Co.

About SPR programme:

To ensure energy security, the Government of India had decided to set up 5 million metric tons (MMT) of strategic crude oil storages at three locations namely, Visakhapatnam, Mangalore and Padur (near Udupi). These strategic storages would be in addition to the existing storages of crude oil and petroleum products with the oil companies and would serve as a cushion during any external supply disruptions.

In the 2017-18 budget, it was announced that two more such caverns will be set up Chandikhole in Jajpur district of Odisha and Bikaner in Rajasthan as part of the second phase.

The construction of the Strategic Crude Oil Storage facilities is being managed by Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Limited (ISPRL), a Special Purpose Vehicle, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Oil Industry Development Board (OIDB) under the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas.

Need for strategic oil reserves:

In 1990, as the Gulf war engulfed West Asia, India was in the throes of a major energy crisis. By all accounts India’s oil reserves at the time were adequate for only three days. While India managed to avert the crisis then, the threat of energy disruption continues to present a real danger even today.

It is unlikely that India’s energy needs will dramatically move away from fossil fuels in the near future. Over 80% of these fuels come from imports, a majority of which is sourced from West Asia. This is a major strategic risk and poses a massive financial drain for an embattled economy and its growing current account deficit.

To address energy insecurity, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government mooted the concept of strategic petroleum reserves in 1998. Today, with India consuming upwards of four million barrels of crude every day (January 2015 figures), the case for creating such reserves grows stronger.

Source: PIB

Government approves mechanism for sale of enemy shares

In News:

The Union Cabinet has approved a mechanism for sale of enemy shares which at the current price is estimated at around Rs 3,000 crore. Sale proceeds are to be deposited as disinvestment proceeds in the government account maintained by the Ministry of Finance. The Department of Investment and Public Asset Management has been authorised to sell the shares.

Details:

A total number of 6,50,75,877 shares in 996 companies of 20,323 shareholders are under the custody of Custodian of Enemy Property of India (CEPI).

Significance:

The decision will lead to monetisation of movable enemy property lying dormant for decades and the proceeds will be used for development and social welfare programmes.

Background:

Total shares, known as “enemy shares numbering 6,50,75,877 worth Rs 3,000 crore, are lying unutilised because enemy property act includes movable and immovable property. Of these 996 companies, 588 are functional/ active companies, 139 of these are listed with remaining being unlisted.

What are enemy properties?

When wars broke out between India and China in 1962, and India and Pakistan in 1965 and 1971, the central government took over properties of citizens of China and Pakistan in India under the Defence of India Acts. These Acts defined an ‘enemy’ as a country that committed an act of aggression against India, and its citizens.

The properties of enemies in India were classified as enemy property. The properties included land, buildings, shares held in companies, gold and jewellery of the citizens of enemy countries. The responsibility of the administration of enemy properties was handed over to the Custodian of Enemy Property, an office under the central government.

Enemy properties Act:

After the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, the Enemy Property Act was enacted in 1968, which regulates such properties and lists the custodian’s powers.

The government amended the Act in the wake of a claim laid by the heirs of Raja Mohammad Amir Mohammad Khan, known as Raja of Mahmudabad, on his properties spread across Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

The government has vested these properties in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India, an office instituted under the Central government.

Source: PIB

Bionic mushrooms

In News:

In their latest feat of engineering, researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology have taken an ordinary white button mushroom from a grocery store and made it bionic, supercharging it with 3D-printed clusters of cyanobacteria that generate electricity and swirls of graphene nanoribbons that can collect the current.

Details:

Researchers used a robotic arm-based 3D printer to first print an “electronic ink” containing the graphene nanoribbons. This printed branched network serves as an electricity-collecting network atop the mushroom’s cap by acting like a nano-probe — to access bio-electrons generated inside the cyanobacterial cells.

Next, they printed a” bio-ink” containing cyanobacteria onto the mushroom’s cap in a spiral pattern intersecting with the electronic ink at multiple contact points. At these locations, electrons could transfer through the outer membranes of the cyanobacteria to the conductive network of graphene nanoribbons. Shining a light on the mushrooms activated cyanobacterial photosynthesis, generating a photocurrent.

Significance and applications of Bionic mushrooms:

This bionic mushroom produces electricity. By integrating cyanobacteria that can produce electricity, with nanoscale materials capable of collecting the current, researchers were able to better access the unique properties of both, augment them, and create an entirely new functional bionic system.

The amount of electricity these bacteria produce can vary depending on the density and alignment with which they are packed, such that the more densely packed together they are, the more electricity they produce.

Source: The Hindu

NASA’s Ralph and Lucy

In News:

NASA’s Ralph and Lucy are all set to explore Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, which are remnants from the earliest days of our solar system.

Details:

Ralph is a space instrument that has travelled as far as Pluto, while Lucy is a mission payload, or the spacecraft which would be carrying various scientific instruments including Ralph to study the properties of the asteroids.

The mission will be launched in 2021 and would be the very first space mission to study the Trojans.

About Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids:

The Trojan asteroids are orbit Sun in two loose groups — one group is always ahead of Jupiter (called the Greek camp) in its path while the other is always behind (called the Trojan camp). The two clusters are stabilized at these two Lagrange points in a gravitational balancing act between the Sun and Jupiter.

As per the NASA all of the Trojans are thought to be abundant in dark carbon compounds. Below an insulating blanket of dust, they are probably rich in water and other volatile substances.

The Trojan asteroids in Jupiter’s orbit could be made from the same material as the outer planets which were formed during the birth of the solar system more than 4 billion years ago.

What are Lagrange points?

Lagrange points are sweet spots in a planetary orbit where the pull of gravity working from two opposing celestial bodies is balanced due to the centripetal force of their orbits.

About mission Lucy to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids:

The name Lucy’ was taken from the name of the fossil of the earliest human ancestor yet discovered. Just like the finding of this skeleton had provided important insight into human evolution, scientists hope the Lucy mission will also be able to tell us more about our planetary origins.

The Lucy mission will comprise a 12-year journey with a fly-by to seven different asteroids — six Trojan asteroids and a Main Belt asteroid — more than any other previous asteroid mission. The mission will get us up-close with both the clusters of Trojan asteroids.

The Lucy mission payload will explore the Trojan asteroids using:

The Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (L’LORRI).

The Thermal Emission Spectrometer (L’TES).

L’Ralph.

L’LORRI will take high-definition photos of the Trojans, and L’TES will analyze the heat given off of the Trojans’ surface structures.

About NASA’s scientific instrument Ralph:

Ralph first launched aboard the New Horizons spacecraft in 2006 and obtained stunning flyby images of Jupiter and its moons. This was followed by a visit to Pluto where Ralph took the first high-definition pictures of the iconic minor planet.

The instrument will fly by another Kuiper Belt object called 2014 MU69 — nicknamed Ultima Thule — in January 2019. Ralph’s observations of 2014 MU69 will provide unique insights into this small, icy world.

Ralph enables the study of the composition and atmospheres of celestial objects.

Source: ToI

China unveils ‘Heavenly Palace’ space station

In News:

China has unveiled a replica of its first permanently-crewed space station, which would replace the international community’s orbiting laboratory- the International Space Station (ISS) and symbolises the country’s major ambitions beyond Earth.

About China’s space station:

It is a 17-metre core module. Three astronauts will be permanently stationed in the 60-tonne orbiting lab, which will enable the crew to conduct biological and microgravity research.

Assembly is expected to be completed around 2022 and the station would have a lifespan of around 10 years.

Significance:

The International Space Station – a collaboration between the United States, Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan – has been in operation since 1998 and is due to be retired in 2024.

China will then have the only space station in orbit, though it will be much smaller than the ISS which weighs 400 tonnes and is as large as a football pitch.

About the International Space Station (ISS):

The International Space Station (ISS) is a space station, or a habitable artificial satellite, in low Earth orbit. The ISS is now the largest artificial body in orbit.

The ISS consists of pressurised modules, external trusses, solar arrays and other components. ISS components have been launched by Russian Proton and Soyuz rockets as well as American Space Shuttles.

The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology and other fields.

The station is suited for the testing of spacecraft systems and equipment required for missions to the Moon and Mars.

The ISS maintains an orbit with an altitude of between 330 and 435 km by means of reboost manoeuvres using the engines of the Zvezda module or visiting spacecraft. It completes 15.54 orbits per day.

ISS is the ninth space station to be inhabited by crews, following the Soviet and later Russian Salyut, Almaz, and Mir stations as well as Skylab from the US.

The ISS programme is a joint project among five participating space agencies: NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, ESA, and CSA.

The ownership and use of the space station is established by intergovernmental treaties and agreements. The station is divided into two sections, the Russian Orbital Segment (ROS) and the United States Orbital Segment (USOS), which is shared by many nations.

Source: The Hindu

Earliest cave paintings of animal discovered in Indonesia, dating back 40,000 years

The world’s earliest-known cave painting of an animal has been discovered.

On Borneo in Indonesia.

It dates back to at least 40,000 years ago.

Central Tribal University

Union Cabinet has approved setting up of Central Tribal University.

The proposed university will come up in Andhra Pradesh after necessary amendment in the Central Universities Act, 2009.

About Central Tribal University:

It will be set up in Relli village of Vizianagaram District of Andhra Pradesh. It will be established under Thirteenth Schedule to Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014.

Beyond Fake News Project

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has devised a new campaign that is aimed at fighting back against disinformation and fake news. It lays a major focus on global media literacy, including workshops and debates in countries like India.

The most highlighted initiatives under the Project includes:

In-depth research of Funding

Sharing online behaviors,

Rolling out media literacy workshops globally

BBC Reality Check for upcoming elections

Extradition Treaty

  • Union Cabinet has recently approved signing and ratifying the Extradition Agreement between India and Morocco.
  • It will provide a strong legal base for the extradition of fugitive offenders who are accused of economic offences, terrorism and other serious offences in one contracting State and found in another contracting State.
  • Extradition Treaty Vs Arrangement – An extradition treaty is a mutually agreed text signed and ratified by two Governments.
  • The arrangement is made in the absence of an extradition treaty on the assurance of reciprocity including under an international convention.
  • In the arrangement, two countries consider any international convention as the legal basis for extradition in respect of any offence to which the convention applies.
  • It does not cover all offences.
  • For e.g India has signed extradition arrangement with Italy.
  • India and Italy are both States Parties to the 1988 UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.
  • This Convention has been notified under the Extradition Act by the Government of India.
  • Thus, the legal basis for extradition will be based on this convention.

Privatisation of Airports

  • Union Cabinet has recently given in principle approval for operating, managing and developing 6 non-metro airports under Public Private Partnership (PPP).
  • The airports are Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Lucknow, Guwahati, Thiruvananthapuram and Mangaluru.
  • At present, airports at Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Cochin are managed under the PPP model.
  • The Airports Authority of India (AAI) will hold a minor stake in 6 new airports under PPP, just like it does at the Delhi and Mumbai airports.
  • The private player will hold at least 75 per cent stake.
  • PPP bidding model – It will be held in a revenue-sharing model, where bidders are required to pay a specified share of gross revenue to the AAI.
  • The same model followed was during the privatisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports.
  • PPP mode has helped create world-class airports while also helping the AAI increase its revenues.

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