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Science and Technology

NASA launches MAVEN to explore Mars

In a bid to dismantle the ancient mystery of Mar’s radical climate change, US space agency NASA launched robotic explorer MAVEN rocketed toward the red planet. The unmanned spacecraft was launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida, US. This is NASA’s 21st mission to Mars since the 1960s. But it’s the first one dedicated to studying the Martian upper atmosphere.

Scientists are eager to know why the climate of Mars changed from warm and wet during its first billion year to cold and dry today. The early Martian atmosphere was thick enough to hold water and possibly support microbial life. But much of that atmosphere may have been lost to space, eroded by the sun.

About MAVEN:
  • MAVEN: Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN
  • Aim: To study the Martian upper atmosphere and conduct its experiments from orbit around Mars.
  • Launched by NASA on November 20, 2013 from Cape Canaveral on Atlas V rocket.
  • It is the first spacecraft devoted to exploring and understanding the Martian upper atmosphere.
  • Reach Mars on September 22, 2014 after travelling over 440 million miles (700 million kilometres).
  • Carries 8 instruments: Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer, Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph, Magnetometer, Solar Wind Electron Analyzer, SupraThermal And Thermal Ion Composition, Langmuir Probe and Waves antenna, Solar Energetic Particles and Solar Wind Ion Analyzer.

Sun to swap its polarity within weeks: NASA

According to the US space agency NASA, the Sun’s magnetic field will reverse its polarity within weeks. Although the event is normal and not catastrophic, it will send ripple effects throughout the solar system.

Why the Sun switches its polarity?

The sun swaps its polarity, flipping its magnetic north and south, once every 11 years through an internal mechanism about which little is known.

The polarity change is built up throughout the eleven year cycle through areas of intense magnetic activity known as sunspots which gradually move towards the poles, eroding the existing opposite polarity. Finally, the magnetic field reduces to zero, and is swapped with the opposite polarity.

How the reversion of Sun’s polarity could affect us?

This event will not cause any catastrophe. However, the swap could cause intergalactic weather fronts such as geomagnetic storms, which can interfere with satellites and cause radio blackouts. The impact of the transfer will be extensive as the sun’s magnetic field wields influence well beyond Pluto, past Nasa’s Voyager probes positioned near the edge of interstellar space.

Bharat Ratna for scientist Prof. C.N.R.Rao

PScreenshot_2rof. C.N.R. Rao,  the man behind India’s maiden Mars mission, to be conferred with the prestigious Bharat Ratna Award, India’s highest civilian award.

About C.N.R. Rao (Chintamani Nagesa Ramachandra Rao)

An Indian scientist

Worked mainly in solid-state and structural chemistry.

One of the world’s foremost solid state and materials chemists.

Rao’s work on transition metal oxides led to basic understanding of novel phenomena and the relationship between materials properties and the structural chemistry of metal oxides.

At present, he is the Head of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of India.

Author of around 1500 research papers.

Authored and edited 45 books.

First Indian scientist to reach the h-index of 100.

One of the earliest to synthesize two-dimensional oxide materials such as La2CuO4.

Rao’s findings have resulted into a systematic study of compositionally controlled metal-insulator transitions. Such findings have emmensely helpes in fields such as colossal magneto resistance and high temperature superconductivity. Oxide semiconductors have uncommon promise.

Made good contribution to nano materials, apart from his work on hybrid materials.

What is h-index (also called the Hirsch index or Hirsch number)?
  • h-index (also called the Hirsch index or Hirsch number) is a tool that measures the productivity and impact of the published work of a scientist or scholar.
  • Based on the set of the scientist’s most cited papers and the number of citations that the individual has received in other publications.
  • Physicist Jorge Hirsch was the first one to coin it in 2005.
  • George Whitesides of Harvard University has an h-index of 169, which makes him the highest ranked living chemist.

Researchers working to replace computer passwords with Biometrics

Scientists at Purdue University (USA) are working on technology that could replace passwords used in computer with biometrics such as iris and fingerprint scans.

As per experts, iris and fingerprint scans as well as facial and voice recognition some of the tools that can improve security while also enhancing convenience in using it.

What is that biometric technology being researched?

That technology can facilitate its user to log into a computer or activate a smartphone just by swiping their fingerprint over a sensor and obviate the need to frequently change passwords.

Why biometric technology to replace the use of passwords?

As per researchers, it is burdensome for most people to used different passwords for different things which make them use the same passwords for a lot of things rendering them vulnerable to password theft.