Daily Current Affairs – 24th February, 2017

Daily Current Affairs – 24th February, 2017

Exoplanets and NASA’s achievements

Introduction

Space Science has been an unbound field of exploration. It involves many such unexplained wonders that have been cause of enquiry and experimentation. Developments in the field have eased life in multiple manners from communication to life changing telemedicine and tele-education like experiences.

Issue:

  • The quest to find life outside the solar system got a big boost with thediscovery of seven Earth-size extra-solar planets, or exoplanets, orbiting a dwarf star about 40 light years away.
  • Unlike earlier discoveries of exoplanets, all seven planets could possibly have liquid water — a key to life as we know it on Earth — with three planets having the greatest chance.
    • This is by far the largest collection of Earth-like planets in the habitable ‘Goldilocks’ zone of a star — neither too close nor too far from a star, which raises the possibility of liquid water being present on the surface.
  • Only Earth has liquid water in the solar system. Less than a year after scientists announced the discovery of three planets orbiting the dwarf star, the team found four more through intense searches using several ground-based telescopes, including a 20-day continuous monitoring using the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Spitzer Space Telescope.
  • Since the dwarf star is much cooler than the Sun, the dimming of light each time a planet passes or transits before the star could be easily recorded from Earth unlike in cases when planets transit a Sun-like bright star.
  • Since the initial discovery of three planets was made using the Chile-based Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope, the exoplanet system is called TRAPPIST-1.
  • Unlike in the case of our solar system, the planets have apparently formed far away from the star and gradually migrated towards it; they share a similar formation history with the Galilean moons, which migrated towards Jupiter after formation.
  • Another major difference in comparison with the solar system is the tight packing of the seven planets around the star.
  • The closest planet in the TRAPPIST-1 system takes just 1.5 days to complete an orbit and the farthest one takes 20 days; the orbital period of the planets is also similar to the Galilean moons.

Significance:

With a fair possibility of liquid water being present on at least three planets, the focus is now on deciphering the climate and chemical composition of their atmosphere.

  • As a first measure, scientists are keen to know if the planets are Earth-like, by ruling out the presence of hydrogen gas enveloping them.
  • Mass estimates already suggest that the inner six planets might have a rocky composition, while the one with a low density may have a volatile composition due to the presence of an ice layer or atmosphere.
  • The composition of the atmosphere can be identified by measuring the wavelength characteristics of light. Since the TRAPPIST-1 system is close by and the star is cool enough, it would be easier to decipher the various critical features of the planets.
  • If there is life on these planets, we would know this in about 10 years. The search for extraterrestrial life has just become more focused.

Conclusion

Spirit of enquiry and questioning has ensured life evolving on earth. This has further lead to increased understanding of extra terrestrial elements and life beyond. In this light the discovery of NASA holds high relevance. The discovery of seven exoplanets makes the search for extraterrestrial life more exciting

Connecting the dots:

  • In light of discovery of NASA how important does extra terrestrial life and activities are for life on earth? Discuss.

Tackling political corruption

Background: While writing a separate order for restoring AIADMK Secretary’s conviction and four-year jail term, the SC judge also highlighted the menace of corruption in public life and said it evolves from “moral debasement” of people. The order said that –

  • Corruption is an insatiable vice for self-aggrandisement by the corrupt.
  • They take unfair advantage of their power and authority, and those in public office also, in breach of the institutional norms, mostly backed by threatening loyalists.
  • Thus, both the corrupt and the corruptor are indictable and answerable to the society and the country as a whole.
  • The order also underlined that corruption by people’s representatives is not only in breach of the oath of office but also in defiance of the undertaking to work for society.

Political corruption

  • Corruption in high places is a malaise that is easy to diagnose but difficult to cure.
  • Even when the corrupt are accused before a court, top politicians often pay their way through legal battles, and spend little or no time in detention.
  • The conviction of AIADMK Secretary is a significant marker in India’s legal and political history and there no denying that the judgment has strengthened confidence in the justice delivery system.

Yet, political corruption still has stronghold in India. The major cause of concern is weakening of political body and law governing the land. People in high office are not innately corrupt but they become so because the system gives them

  • An elevated sense of their worth
  • Opportunity

Despite the pride in regular elections being conducted, the biggest source of corruption are also the elections. The proceeds of corruption finds its way into funding election campaigns.

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