Science and Technology (S&T) Current Affairs 2017

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LHS 1140b: Another planet in habitable zone discovered

Astronomers have discovered yet another planet, called LHS1140b, which is expected to be present in the Goldilocks Zone. It’s not so far away, either. It is found orbiting around the star LHS 1140 some 39 light-years away.

Goldilocks Zone refers to a habitable zone where the temperature is neither too high nor too low.

The planet is found to be rocky, like the Earth but is over six-times as massive as Earth and about 1.5-times larger and falls under the category of ‘Super Earth’. Its gravitational pull will be three times stronger than that of the Earth. Rocky planets within the habitable zone are the best candidates to find evidence of some form of life.

Super Earth: These are planets that are bigger and more massive than Earth and yet smaller and less massive than the next biggest planet, Neptune.

The very close location of the planet will make it easier for the astronomers to study its atmosphere and look for signs of life in the near-future. The study of a planet’s atmosphere is vital to look for signs of life. If the atmosphere is found to be thick and filled with carbon dioxide, like Venus, then it can be concluded that it would be too hot to hold life or water. On the other hand, if the atmosphere is too thin and wispy like Mars, then all the water will get locked up as ice.

The first planet outside our solar system was found out in 1995. With the help of NASA’s Kepler telescope, the discovery of planets has become easier. So far, astronomers have identified 52 potentially habitable planets and around 3,600 planets outside our solar system. With the launch of James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) by NASA in 2018, chances of studying planets and detecting a familiar atmosphere will increase manifold. JWST will succeed the Hubble space telescope.

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BRABO: First ‘Made in India’ Industrial Robot

TAL Manufacturing Solutions, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Motors has unveiled India’s first ‘conceptualized, designed and manufactured articulated industrial robot’ called “BRABO”. BRABO stands for “Bravo Robot”.

The robot has been developed indigenously for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) in India. The robot is primarily developed to complement the human workforce and repeatedly perform high volume, dangerous and time-consuming tasks ranging from handling of raw materials to packaging of finished products.

BRABO was designed and manufactured at the TAL’s Pune factory. Other than the motors and drives for the Robo-arm, all the other parts of the robot were indigenously manufactured in India. BRABO has four patents registered in its name and TAL has also applied for an intellectual property (IP) certification for the robot.

Features of BRABO

The robot will be easy to install, use, program and maintain. It comes with low-cost power transmission system. It will be able to work on single phase power supply suitable for MSMEs. It has an inbuilt programmable logic controller and can act as a virtual controller for simulation.

Articulated robots

Articulated robots are those that are fitted with rotary joints. They can have one or more rotary joints depending upon their function. Rotary joints will allow for precise movements and hence increases the capabilities of the robot.

Significance- Industrial robots

Industrial robots help in cost reduction, improved quality, increased production, and improved workplace health and safety. Considering its significance, global industrial robotics market is expected to reach US$79.58 billion by 2022.

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Saturn’s moon Enceladus may be habitable: NASA

NASA has announced that Saturn’s sixth-largest moon Enceladus and Jupiter’s fourth-largest moon Europa may be habitable as they have the necessary ingredients required to sustain life. The key ingredients of life are liquid water, a source of energy for metabolism, and chemicals such as carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulphur. Findings were made by NASA with the help of Cassini-Huygens unmanned spacecraft and the Hubble Telescope. Cassini-Huygens unmanned spacecraft was sent in 1997 to study Saturn, its rings, and its moon.

Salient findings

Saturn’s moon Enceladus has a higher possibility of hosting life than Jupiter’s Europa as it has a form of chemical energy on which life forms can feed. Enceladus is a small, icy moon which has an abundance of hydrogen molecules in water plumes. 98% of the gas in the plumes was found to be water and 1% is hydrogen and the remaining is a mixture of molecules of carbon dioxide, methane, and ammonia.

Underwater vents present on Enceladus resemble the vents present on Earth’s ocean floors, where microbes and other sea life congregate. Scientists expect to find the potential for life in those vents as microbes flourish on Earth in hot cracks on the ocean floors, where sunlight cannot penetrate. Microbes are capable of using the process of methanogenesis, in which hydrogen is combined with carbon dioxide dissolved in the water, to obtain energy. This process creates methane as a byproduct, which is a critical ingredient for life

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