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Current Affairs – 14 June 2021

Current Affairs (14th June 2021)

PASIPHAE

Context:

  • To study the origin of the universe, the development of a vital instrument, which will be used in upcoming sky surveys to study stars, is being led by an Indian astronomer known as Polar-Areas Stellar-Imaging in Polarisation High-Accuracy Experiment (PASIPHAE).
  • The project has been funded by the world’s leading institutions, signalling India’s growing expertise in building complex astronomical instruments.

About:

  • PASIPHAE is an international collaborative sky surveying project. Scientists aim to study the polarisation in the light coming from millions of stars.
  • The name is inspired from Pasiphae, the daughter of Greek Sun God Helios, who was married to King Minos.
  • The survey will use two high-tech optical polarimeters to observe the northern and southern skies, simultaneously.
  • It will focus on capturing starlight polarisation of very faint stars that are so far away that polarisation signals from there have not been systematically studied. The distances to these stars will be obtained from measurements of the GAIA satellite.
  • By combining these data, astronomers will perform a maiden magnetic field tomography mapping of the interstellar medium of very large areas of the sky using a novel polarimeter instrument known as WALOP (Wide Area Linear Optical Polarimeter).

Who are involved?

  • Scientists from the University of Crete, Greece, Caltech, USA, Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), India, the South African Astronomical Observatory and the University of Oslo, Norway, are involved in this project, steered by the Institute of Astrophysics, Greece.
  • The Infosys Foundation, India, Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Greece and USA’s National Science Foundation have each provided a grant of $1 million, combined with contributions from the European Research Council and the National Research Foundation in South Africa.

Significance:

  • Since its birth about 14 billion years ago, the universe has been constantly expanding, as evidenced by the presence of Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation which fills the universe.
  • Immediately after its birth, the universe went through a short inflationary phase during which it expanded at a very high rate before it slowed down and reached the current rate. However, so far, there have only been theories and indirect evidence of inflation associated with the early universe.
  • A definitive consequence of the inflationary phase is that a tiny fraction of the CMB radiation should have its imprints in the form of a specific kind of polarisation (known scientifically as B-mode signal).
  • All previous attempts to detect this signal met with failure mainly due to the difficulty posed by our galaxy, the Milky Way, which emits copious amounts of polarised radiation.
  • Besides, it contains a lot of dust clouds that are present in the form of clusters. When starlight passes through these dust clouds, they get scattered and polarised.
  • The PASIPHAE survey will measure starlight polarisation over large areas of the sky. This data along with GAIA distances to the stars will help create a 3-Dimensional model of the distribution of the dust and magnetic field structure of the galaxy.
  • Such data can help remove the galactic polarised foreground light and enable astronomers to look for the elusive B-mode signal.

What is WALOP?

  • Wide Area Linear Optical Polarimeter (WALOP) is an instrument, when mounted on two small optical telescopes, that will be used to detect polarised light signals emerging from the stars along high galactic latitudes.
  • A WALOP each will be mounted on the 1.3-metre Skinakas Observatory, Crete, and on the 1-metre telescope of the South African Astronomical Observatory located in Sutherland.
  • In simple terms, the images will simultaneously have the finest of details of a star along with its panoramic background.

 

G7 Summit

Context:

  • The 47th edition of the “Group of seven” summit is ongoing in Carbis Bay, southwest England.

“Build Back Better World” (B3W) project:

  • It envisages to collectively mobilize hundreds of billions of infrastructure investment for low- and middle-income countries.
  • The B3W project aims to offer a “values-driven, high-standard and transparent” partnership.

Carbis Bay Declaration:

  • It aims to prevent future pandemics under which G7 leaders have committed to use all their resources.
  • The declaration based on the independent report titled ‘100 Days Mission to Respond to Future Pandemic Threats’ contains actionable recommendations on how governments and others can quickly respond to any future outbreaks.
  • The G7 Carbis Bay declaration includes the following interventions:
    • Slashing the time taken to develop and licence vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics for any future disease to under 100 days.
    • Reinforcing global surveillance networks and genomic sequencing capacity
    • Support for reforming and strengthening the World Health Organization (WHO)
  • Under the Carbis Bay Declaration, the UK, which holds the presidency for the G7 Leaders’ Summit 2021, will establish a new centre to develop vaccines to prevent zoonotic diseases spreading from animals to humans.
  • The G7 nations are expected to collectively agree to provide a billion doses of Covid-19 vaccine to end the pandemic in 2022.

Tackling China:

  • The B3W project is aimed to counter China’s Belt and Road infrastructure (BRI) initiative. The emphasis on a transparent partnership stands in strong contrast to China’s BRI which has been widely criticized for pushing countries with unsustainable debt levels.
  • The G7 Carbis Bay declaration on reinforcing global surveillance networks to identify early threats from diseases appears as a veiled reference to China’s failure to notify the world early regarding the COID-19 pandemic.
  • The UK has invited India, along with Australia, South Korea, and South Africa, as guest countries, which is seen as a nod to the recognition of their discontent with the influence of China.

Conclusion:

  • The ongoing summit coming after a tumultuous period marked by transactional approach to international relations under the Trump administration of the U.S. is an indication of the new administration’s intent to build closer coordination with traditional allies in the Global North and renewed multilateralism.
  • Despite the existing challenges to the G7, the G7’s ability to set the tone for cooperation on global issues has not diminished and this needs to be used to revive the emphasis on multilateral co-ordination and co-operation in the spirit of globalization.
  • The G7 will have to take along other nations in the broader G20 to increase the effectiveness of its initiative.

 

Operation Olivia

Context:

  • Indian Coast Guard’s “Operation Olivia” aims to rescue Olive Ridleys.
  • The annual “Operation Olivia” helps protect Olive Ridley turtles as they congregate along the Odisha coast for breeding and nesting.
  • The Coast Guard carries out round-the-clock surveillance from November till May utilising Coast Guard assets and helps enforce laws near the rookeries.

About:

  • The olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), also known commonly as the Pacific ridley sea turtle, is a species of turtle in the family Cheloniidae.
  • The species is one of the most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world.
  • It is primarily found in warm and tropical waters, primarily in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, but also in the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Breeding and nesting of the Olive Ridley Turtles is observed from November to December.

Threat:

  • Heavy predation of Olive Ridley turtle eggs by dogs and wild animals
  • Dense fishing activity along the coasts of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Bengal, especially ocean-going trawlers, mechanized fishing boats and gill-netters pose a severe threat to turtles.
  • Beach soil erosion

Conservation status:

  • The Olive Ridley is listed as vulnerable under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red list.
  • It is included in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and in the Appendix I of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

 

Glacier Melt in Hindu Kush

Context:

  • According to a recent United Nations-backed research, up to two billion people in southeast Asia can face food and water shortages even as the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) mountain ranges lose up to two-thirds of its ice by 2100.

Issue:

  • The HKH region continues to warm through the 21st century even if the world was able to limit global warming at the agreed 1.5 degrees Celsius.
    • In the future, even if global warming is kept to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrialisation levels, warming in the HKH region is likely to be at least 0.3 degrees Celsius higher and in the northwest Himalaya and Karakoram at least 0.7 degrees Celsius higher.
  • On the ice thickness of glaciers, it was estimated that glaciers in the HKH may contain 27 per cent less ice than previously suggested.

Impact:

  • In the best-case scenarios, High Mountain Asia (the Asian mountain ranges surrounding the Tibetan Plateau) will lose a substantial part of its cryosphere in the next decades and thus a substantial part of its water storage abilities, which will lead to increased water stress in high mountain areas.
  • Melting glaciers and the loss of seasonal snow pose significant risks to the stability of water resources in South Asia.
  • The glacier melt contributes to disasters such as flash floods, landslidessoil erosion and Glacial bursts, with mountain communities especially vulnerable to such disasters.
  • The melting and thinning of glaciers may also affect hydropower production, which is a key source of renewable energy for the region.
  • Potential damage to other sectors including the infrastructure and adversely affect the larger tourism industry.
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