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11 Jan Current Affairs

TOI 700 d

In News:

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has reported the discovery of an Earth-size planet, named TOI 700 d.

The planet was found by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission, which was launched in 2018. With TOI 700 d, TESS has discovered its first Earth-size planet in its star’s habitable zone.

About TOI 700 d:

In comparison to the Earth: TOI 700 d measures 20% larger than Earth. It orbits its star, TOI 700, once every 37 days.

The star, TOI 700, is an “M dwarf” located just over 100 light-years away in the southern constellation Dorado. It is roughly 40% of the Sun’s mass and size, and has about half its surface temperature.

Two other planets orbit the star.

TOI 700 b, which is almost exactly Earth-size, probably rocky, and which completes an orbit every 10 days.

TOI 700 c, the middle planet, which is 2.6 times larger than Earth, is probably gas-dominated, and orbits every 16 days.

Orbits in Habitable Zone: TOI 700 d is the outermost planet, and the only one in the TOI 700’s habitable zone.

A habitable zone, also called the “Goldilocks zone” is the area around a star where it is not too hot and not too cold for liquid water to exist on the surface of surrounding planets.

Earth is in the Sun’s Goldilocks zone. If Earth were where the dwarf planet Pluto is, all its water would freeze; on the other hand, if Earth were where Mercury is, all its water would boil off.

Goldilock Zone is always defined with reference to a particular star. It can be different for different stars.

M-dwarf Star:

M dwarf or M-type star, also called Red Dwarf Star are the most numerous type of star in the universe and the smallest type of hydrogen-burning star.

These have masses from about 0.08 to 0.6 times that of the Sun.

In the Milky Way Galaxy, about three-fourths of the stars are red dwarfs.

Operation Sankalp

In News:

Indian Navy continues to deploy one warship for Operation SANKALP in order to ensure the safe passage of Indian Flag Vessels transiting through the Strait of Hormuz amidst deteriorating US-Iran relations.

About Operation SANKALP:

Indian Navy launched Operation SANKALP in the Gulf Region on 19th June 2019.

Indian Navy warships and aircraft are deployed to establish presence, provide a sense of reassurance to the Indian merchantmen, monitor the ongoing situation and respond to any emergent crises like deteriorating US-Iran relations in the recent times.

US-Iran:

1979: US-backed Shah of Iran was overthrown and the country became an Islamic republic.

Dozens of Americans were taken hostage inside the US embassy in the capital Tehran.

2015: Iran agreed on a landmark deal to limit its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of tough economic sanctions.

This move improved Iran’s diplomatic relations with other nations.

2018: The US President abandoned the Nuclear Accord and reinstated US sanctions to force Iran’s leaders to agree to a new deal.

Iran rejected it even the economy of the country was sent into recession.

2019: The pressure was stepped up in May by application of secondary sanctions on countries that continued to do business with Iran.

Relations further deteriorated when oil tankers were sabotaged in the Gulf of Oman.

Later, Tehran started suspending some of the commitments under the nuclear deal.

It was followed by attacks and counter-attacks by both countries until January 2020.

2020: On 3 January, Qasem Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike at Baghdad airport.

Iran abandoned the last limit on its enrichment of uranium imposed by the nuclear accord as a way of revenge.

These issues have led to turbulent situations in the Gulf region.

Sea Guardians

The sixth joint naval exercise between China and Pakistan started on 6th January, 2019. It is being held in the Arabian Sea.

For the first time, the exercise has been named as ‘Sea Guardians’.

‘Sea Guardians’ is expected to become a series of naval exercises between China and Pakistan, similar to:

Warrior: Series of joint land exercises

Shaheen: Series of joint air exercises.

Note : ‘Dharma Guardian’ is the joint military exercise between India and Japan.

New Energy Performance Standards for Air Conditioners

The Central Government in consultation with the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has notified new energy performance standards for Room Air Conditioner (RACs).

The 240C default setting has been made mandatory from 1st January, 2020 for all room air conditioners covered under the ambit of BEE star-labelling program.

BEE launched the voluntary star labelling program for fixed-speed room air conditioners (RACs) in 2006, and this program became mandatory on 12th January 2009.

Thereafter, in 2015, voluntary star labelling program for inverter room air conditioners was launched and was made mandatory with effect from 1st January 2018.

Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE):

BEE is a statutory body under the Ministry of Power, Government of India.

It assists in developing policies and strategies with the primary objective of reducing the energy intensity of the Indian economy.

BEE coordinates with designated consumers, designated agencies, and other organizations to identify and utilize the existing resources and infrastructure, in performing the functions assigned to it under the energy conservation act.

World Bank’s Global Economic Prospect

In News:

On January 9, 2020, the World Bank released its Global Economic Prospect.

Details:

According to its forecast, the world is expected to grow economically at the rate of 2.5%.

This is the lowest prediction since that predicted in 2008-09, 3.1%. By then, the global financial crisis derailed the economy.

Highlights:

The report says that investment and trade in the country is expected to recover. However, the downward risks from 2019 are to continue. It also said that the advanced economies are to slip their growth by 1.4% as the manufacturing sector continues to soften.

The emerging markets in the developing economies are to witness acceleration in their growth according to the report. However, this is not applicable to all. A third of developing countries are expected to decelerate this year. Predominantly the growing economies are located in South and South East Asia.

South Asia:

Growth in South Asia is expected to rise by 5.5% in 2020. The report predicts India’s growth rate at 5%.

It is expected that the credit from non-banking companies to expected to weaken. The report also says that India will see a growth rate of 5.5% in the subsequent year.

The United States is expected to grow at 1.8% and European Union is projected to slip its growth by 1% in 2020.

Telcos seek open court hearing on AGR

In News:

Telecom companies, including Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, have urged an open court hearing of their petitions seeking a review of a Supreme Court judgment upholding the recovery of past dues amounting to ₹1.47 lakh crore from them.

Details:

On October 24 last year, dealing a huge blow to telecom service providers, the Court had upheld the Department of Telecom’s (DoT) move to recover AGR of about ₹92,000 crore from the telcos.

The Court dismissed the telecom service providers’ objection to the government’s formulation of AGR.

What is AGR?

It is the usage and licensing fee that telecom operators are charged by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

It is divided into spectrum usage charges and licensing fees, pegged between 3-5 percent and 8 percent respectively.

The judgment had said that the gross revenue would be inclusive of installation charges, late fees, sale proceeds of handsets (or any other terminal equipment etc.), revenue on account of interest, dividend, value-added services, supplementary services, access or interconnection charges, roaming charges, revenue from permissible sharing of infrastructure and any other miscellaneous revenue, without any set-off for related item of expense, etc.

Why the Court had upheld DOT’s move?- Observations made by the Court:

The telecom sector had long reaped the fruits of the Centre’s liberalised mode of payment by revenue sharing regime.

The sector has benefited immensely under the scheme as apparent from the gross revenue trend from 2004 to 2015.

But, the service providers had failed to fulfil their obligations to the government and raised frivolous objections.

World’s most efficient lithium sulphur battery developed in Australia

In News:

Researchers at the University of Monash in Australia have managed to create a super-capacity prototype by re-engineering a Lithium Sulphur (Li-S) battery.

Details:

Li-S batteries are not new. But they had an intrinsic problem with the sulphur electrode, which would break after repeated charge cycles, making its superior capacity redundant.

The sulphur cathode would break because of expansion and contraction during cycles.

How was this problem overcome?

To overcome this problem, the researchers gave the electrodes more space to expand and contract. The electrodes are bound inside the battery using polymers. The research team used lesser quantity of these adhesives so that the electrodes had more spaceout structures inside them.

These structures behaved more like bridges between the sulphur particles rather than a dense network, which stopped the electrodes from disintegrating.

 How it works?

The lithium-sulphur batteries operate in the same way as regular lithium-ion work- lithium ions flow between electrodes producing power while not being chemically changed. Charging a battery involves those ions being returned to their starting positions for the process to begin anew.

 Significance:

This battery that has five times the capacity of a traditional lithium ion battery. It can retain 99 per cent of its charge even after 200 charge cycles.

Li-S batteries are also many times cheaper than lithium ion batteries that could bring down the cost of electric mobility.

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