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SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY - October 2020

Oct 2020

Jan 23, 2021

NASA Investigating Distant Galaxy Mysteriously Shooting Flares Out Every 114 Days

  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is investigating a distant galaxy that erupts once roughly every 114 days and has been spotted 570 million light-years away.
  • According to NASA, scientists have studied 20 repeated outbursts, classified as ASASSN-14ko, as observed by its Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) by measuring different wavelengths of light.
  • These are the most predictable and frequent recurring multi wavelength flares which have been seen from a galaxy's core, and they give a unique opportunity to study this extragalactic Old Faithful in detail.

Jan 22, 2021

EU orders next-generation Galileo satellites

  • The European Commission has handed down industrial contracts worth a total of €1.47bn (£1.31bn; $1.97bn) to build the next generation of Galileo satellites.
  • The work is going to the continent's two dominant space manufacturers — Airbus and Thales Alenia Space.
  • They will make six spacecraft each for the global navigation satellite system, with the first of them likely to go into orbit in 2024.
  • Galileo is the EU's version of the US Global Positioning System (GPS).
  • Now enabled in billions of smartphones worldwide, both services allow users to identify their location on the planet down to an error of a metre or so.
  • The precise timing transmissions from orbit are also used in numerous infrastructure applications, including the synchronisation of telecommunications and energy networks.

Jan 21, 2021

NASA Mission Discovers 10 Billion-year-old Exoplanet 50% Larger than Our Own

  • NASA's TESS mission (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) has discovered a hot and rocky planet that is about 50 per cent larger than Earth and has three times the mass but surprisingly, the same density as Earth. Referred to as an exoplanet owing to its location outside our solar system, it has been named TOI-561b.
  • The discovery of this exoplanet was revealed in a study accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal. This study was made public during the 237th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, which was held virtually owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Interestingly, the exoplanet TOI-561b which has more mass but the same density as Earth takes only less than half of 24 hours to complete one orbit around its host star. Owing to its features, the exoplanet is also being referred to as a 'Super-Earth'.

Astronomers Discover Earliest Supermassive Black Hole and Quasar in the Universe

  • The most distant quasar known has been discovered. The quasar, observed just 670 million years after the Big Bang, is 1000 times more luminous than the Milky Way.
  • It is powered by the earliest known supermassive black hole, which weighs in at more than 1.6 billion times the mass of the Sun. Seen more than 13 billion years ago, this fully formed distant quasar is also the earliest yet discovered, providing astronomers with insight into the formation of massive galaxies in the early Universe.
  • The result was released at the January 2021 meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
  • Quasars, which are powered by the feeding frenzies of colossal supermassive black holes, are the most energetic objects in the Universe. 

Jan 20, 2021

Italy's Eni Eyes Foray into Indian Clean Energy Space

  • Underpinning the growing focus of global super energy majors on India' green economy, Italy's Eni SpA is exploring the feasibility of participating in the world's largest clean energy programme.
  • Eni is eyeing gigawatt (GW)-scale investments in India and plans to reach 55GW installed capacity globally by 2050. The Rome-headquartered firm is studying the build quality of projects, players' profiles, and the market in India.
  • Oil giants are aiming to diversify and invest in India's clean energy programme as the conventional hydrocarbon space undergoes technological disruptions. With a focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) investment, marquee global oil and gas firms, such as French energy giant Total SA, and Malaysia's state-run oil and gas company Petroliam Nasional Bhd, or Petronas, have already invested in India. Thailand's PTT Group is looking to acquire a stake in ReNew Power from Goldman Sachs Group.

Jan 18, 2021

NASA's Boeing Moon Rocket Cuts Short 'Once-in-a-Generation' Ground Test

  • NASA's deep space exploration rocket built by Boeing briefly ignited all four engines of its behemoth core stage for the first time, cutting short a crucial test to advance a years-delayed U.S. government program to return humans to the moon in the next few years.
  • Mounted in a test facility at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, the Space Launch System's (SLS) 212-foot tall core stage roared to life at 4:27 p.m. local time (2227 GMT) for just over a minute — well short of the roughly four minutes engineers needed to stay on track for the rocket's first launch in November this year.
  • The engine test, the last leg of NASA's nearly year-long "Green Run" test campaign, was a vital step for the space agency and its top SLS contractor Boeing before a debut unmanned launch later this year under NASA's Artemis program, the Trump administration's push to return U.S. astronauts to the moon by 2024.

Branson's Virgin Rocket Takes Satellites to Orbit

  • Sir Richard Branson's rocket company Virgin Orbit has succeeded in putting its first satellites in space.
  • Ten payloads in total were lofted on the same rocket, which was launched from under the wing of one of the entrepreneur's old 747 jumbos.
  • Sir Richard is hoping to tap into what is a growing market for small, lower-cost satellites.
  • By using a jet plane as the launch platform, he can theoretically send up spacecraft from anywhere in the world. 
  • In reality, of course, his Virgin Orbit system has to be licensed in the locality where it is used, which at the moment is solely California. But there are well-advanced plans to bring the 747 and its rockets to Cornwall in south-west England, for example.
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