21st December Current Affairs
December 21, 2020
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December 23, 2020
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22nd December Current Affairs

Chang’e-5 probe

In News:

Chinese spacecraft carrying rocks and soil from the moon has begun its journey back to Earth, putting China on course to become the first country to successfully retrieve lunar samples since the 1970s.

What Next?

A successful landing in Inner Mongolia would make China only the third country to have retrieved lunar samples after the United States and the Soviet Union.

The plan was to collect 2 kg (4.4 lbs) of samples, although it has not been disclosed how much was actually gathered.

Background:

The Chang’e-5 was launched on Nov. 24 and a lander vehicle touched down on the moon on Dec. 1. The mission was expected to take around 23 days in total.

The objective of the mission was to bring back lunar rocks, the first attempt by any nation to retrieve samples from the moon in four decades.

About Chang’e-5 probe:

It is an unmanned spacecraft by China. The probe is named after the mythical Chinese moon goddess.

The rocket comprises of four parts: an orbiter, a returner, an ascender and a lander.

The Chang’e-5 mission is expected to realize four “firsts” in China’s space history:

  • The first time for a probe to take off from the surface of the Moon.
  • The first time to automatically sample the lunar surface.
  • The first time to conduct unmanned rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit.
  • The first time to return to Earth with lunar soil samples in escape velocity.

India is on track to reduce emissions

In News:

Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said that India was the only major G20 country that was on track towards keeping to its nationally determined commitments to halt runaway global warming.

It had achieved 21% of its emissions intensity reduction target as a proportion of its GDP in line with its pledge to a 33-35% reduction by 2030.

Background:

These remarks were made ahead of the international Climate Ambition Summit to be jointly hosted shortly by the United Nations, the United Kingdom and France, in partnership with Chile and Italy to mark the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Agreement.

Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC):

In 2015, ahead of the United Nations’ significant climate conference in Paris, India announced three major voluntary commitments called the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC):

  • Improving the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33–35% by 2030 over 2005 levels.
  • Increasing the share of non-fossil fuels-based electricity to 40% by 2030.
  • Enhancing its forest cover, thereby absorbing 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The Paris Agreement:

The Paris Agreement, adopted at COP 21 in Paris, on December 12, 2015, constitutes a landmark agreement on climate change that seeks to limit global average temperature rise to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and endeavour to limit the increase to 1.5°C.

The agreement, which came into force on November 4, 2016, currently has 188 parties.

All parties to it are expected to undertake ambitious efforts to support the agreement’s goals and communicate their related intentions every five years in the form of NDCs.

In the first round, 186 parties submitted their first NDC and two have since submitted a second one.

Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve

In News:

Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve can now be explored by boats while bicycle tracks are also being finalised. One can go trekking too. But the new activities are beyond the 1,302 sq km Kaziranga’s core area of 482 sq km.

Key Facts:

It is a national park in Assam.

Formed in 1908 on the recommendation of Mary Curzon, the park is located in the edge of the Eastern Himalayan biodiversity hotspots – Golaghat and Nagaon district.

It hosts two-thirds of the world’s great one-horned rhinoceroses.

It is a World Heritage Site.

It is also recognized as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International for the conservation of avifaunal species.

Much of the focus of conservation efforts in Kaziranga are focused on the ‘big four’ species— Rhino, Elephant, Royal Bengal tiger and Asiatic water buffalo.

Kaziranga is crisscrossed by four main rivers — Brahmaputra, Diphlu, Mora Diphlu and Mora Dhansiri.

Why women’s rights activists’ criticised Maharashtra’s proposed laws against sexual offences?

In News:

The Maharashtra Shakti Bill, 2020, and the Special Court and Machinery for Implementation of Maharashtra Shakti Criminal Law, 2020 have been criticised by prominent women’s rights advocates for being “draconian” and “anti-women”.

Details:

The activists have said that the two Bills (framed on the lines of The Andhra Pradesh Disha Act, 2019) should have been discussed with lawyers, activists, and academics working on women’s issues before they were passed by the state Cabinet.

What are the concerns?

An amendment has been proposed to Section 375 (rape) of the IPC, to add an “explanation” that says that in cases where parties are adults and their conduct suggest there was “consent or implied consent”, a presumption of consent will be made. This, the activists say, “feeds into the patriarchal construct of consent and conduct of women”.

Section 12 of The Special Courts and Machinery for the Implementation of Shakti Act, 2020, will punish the filing of false complaints. This, according to the signatories, “perpetuates the patriarchal notions of viewing women with suspicion, as unworthy of being believed” — and will deter victims from reporting sexual offences.

Besides, the 15 days’ time-frame will not be sufficient for gathering all evidence and will become an excuse for police to not conduct a proper investigation. A hurried investigation and trial, they said, is likely to lead to miscarriage of justice.

Also, the death penalty in the new law reduces both the reporting of sexual offences and of conviction rates.

What makes the Geminids meteor shower unique?

In News:

The Geminids meteor shower, believed to be the strongest of the year, is active from December 4-December 20, with December 13 and 14 considered to be the best nights for viewing these meteor showers.

What are meteor showers?

Meteors are bits of rock and ice that are ejected from comets as they manoeuvre around their orbits around the sun.

Meteor showers are witnessed when Earth passes through the trail of debris left behind by a comet or an asteroid.

Why is the Geminid meteor shower considered to be the best of the year?

The Geminids meteor showers are unique because their origin does not lie in a comet, but what is believed to be an asteroid or an extinct comet. The Geminids emerge from 3200 Phaethon, which meteor scientists consider to be an asteroid.

The asteroid is over 5 km in diameter and was named after the Greek myth of Phaethon, the son of Sun god Helios.

According to NASA, the Geminids rate will be better this year because the shower’s peak overlaps with a nearly new moon, which means there will be darker skies and no moonlight to wash out the fainter meteors.

What Are The Differences Between An Asteroid, Comet, Meteoroid, Meteor and Meteorite?

Asteroid: A relatively small, inactive, rocky body orbiting the Sun.

Comet: A relatively small, at times active, object whose ices can vaporize in sunlight forming an atmosphere (coma) of dust and gas and, sometimes, a tail of dust and/or gas.

Meteoroid: A small particle from a comet or asteroid orbiting the Sun.

Meteor: The light phenomena which results when a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere and vaporizes; a shooting star.

Meteorite: A meteoroid that survives its passage through the Earth’s atmosphere and lands upon the Earth’s surface.