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NASA Names New Species After Abdul Kalam

NASA has named a new bacteria discovered on the filters of the International Space Station, ISS, as Solibacillus kalamii to honour the late president Dr A P J Abdul Kalam.  The genus is Solibacillus and the species name is kalamii. Researchers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory has found that the bacteria remained on board the International Space Station for 40 months. The new organism is found only on the ISS and has not been found anywhere on the earth. In 1963, Dr. Kalam had his early training at NASA before setting up India’s first rocket launching facility at Thumba in Kerala.

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen (A.P.J) Abdul Kalam was born on 15 October 1931 in Rameswaram, Ramanathapuram District of Tamil Nadu. In 1960, he had joined Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) as a scientist and started his career by designing a small helicopter for the Indian Army. In 1969, he had joined India Space Research Organisation (ISRO) as the project director for India’s first indigenous satellite launch vehicle programme. Under his leadership and vision, India entered into the elite space club after Rohini satellite was place into the orbit in 1980. He was a pioneer and instrumental in development of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), India’s space workhorse. In 1980, he was appointed Chairman of Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP) and was brain behind developing Agni and Prithvi missiles. Thus he came to be known as the Missile Man of India for his work on the development of ballistic missile. He was Chief Project Coordinator of Pokhran II Nuclear Test (Operation Shakti) which was conducted on 11 May 1998. He was the 11th President of India and was in office from 2002 to 2007. He was India’s most popular President and famously known as People’s President. He has been awarded with Bharat Ratna (1997), Padma Vibhushan (1990), Padma Bhushan (1981).

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NASA detects Signs of Water in a distant Neptune Sized Planet

Scientists have detected “a strong water signature” in the atmosphere of a distant Neptune-sized planet called HAT-P-26b. The study conducted using NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes has showed that  HAT-P-26b has a primitive atmosphere composed almost entirely of hydrogen and helium. Although the planet is not a water world, its atmosphere which is relatively clear of clouds has a strong water signature.

Researchers have detected the presence of water by pooling data obtained from four transits when the planet passed in front of its host star. By studying how the signatures of the starlight changes, researchers can come up with the chemical composition of the atmosphere. The study has been published in the journal Science.

Significance

This study is one of the most detailed studies till date conducted in a planet that is roughly the size of the Neptune and close to its star. The water measured in the planet is one of the best measurement of water to date found on an exoplanet of this size. The  HAT-P-26b is located about 437 light years away. The significance of the study lies in the fact that it would help in understanding more about the birth and development of planetary systems.

The data obtained will also come handy in estimating the HAT-P-26b’s metallicity, which is an indication of composition of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. The planet’s metallicity was found to be about 4.8 times that of the Sun. It would help in understanding the planet formation.

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft successfully travels between Saturn and its rings

Recently, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft completed its final close flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan and has now started its final set of 22 orbits before plunging into Saturn on September 15, 2017, and thus completing its 20-year long journey. Already, Cassini has dived successfully through the space between Saturn and its rings, a region no spacecraft has been before. It will perform another 21 dives through the same gap and will send more detailed information about Saturn and its rings. These series of 22 manoeuvres that brings Cassini closer to Saturn’s surface before plunging into it is called as the spacecraft’s “grand finale.”

The spacecraft will provide the radar team with the final set of new images of the hydrocarbon seas and lakes that are present in Titan’s North Polar Region.

Cassini

Cassini spacecraft was named after the 17th-century astronomer Giovanni Cassini. It was launched into space in October 1997. It is a joint endeavour of NASA, European Space Agency (ESA) and Italian space agency, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI).

Cassini was the fourth space probe to visit Saturn and the first to enter its orbit. The Robotic spacecraft included a Saturn orbiter and an atmospheric probe/lander called Huygens for the Saturn’s moon Titan which entered and landed on Titan in 2005.

Sixteen European countries and the United States make up the team responsible for designing, building, flying and collecting data from the Cassini orbiter and Huygens probe. Huygens was developed by the European Space Research and Technology Centre.

Findings of Cassini

Cassini and Huygens have revealed the existence of earth-like geographic features, great lakes of liquid nitrogen gas on Titan’s surface. Cassini also found evidence for the existence of Underground Ocean on the moon Enceladus. In April, NASA announced that the spacecraft has found evidence that the underground ocean could sustain some form of life. Cassini has generated a rich volume of data that will fuel scientific study for decades to come.

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