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Astronomers discover 7 new Earth-sized exoplanets that may sustain life

Astronomers from NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) for the first time have discovered seven new Earth-sized exoplanets that may be able to sustain life.

The planets were detected using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and several ground-based observatories including Trappist robotic telescope at La Silla, Chile. 

Key Facts
  • These exoplanets are orbiting dwarf star named Trappist-1, which at 39 light years away. They could have some liquid water and maybe supporting life.
  • Of the seven planets, three are classified as TRAPPIST-1 e, f and g. These three planets orbit in the habitable (so-called Goldilocks zone) where temperatures are suited to surface oceans of liquid water.
  • The star Trappist-1 is at least 500 million years old and has a temperature of 2550K. It is marginally larger than Jupiter and shines with a feeble light about 2,000 times fainter than Earth’s sun.
  • The 6 inner planets lie in a temperate zone where surface temperatures range from zero to 100C. Their masses range from around 0.4 to 1.4 times the mass of the Earth.
  • They are so close to each other that their gravitational fields interact with each other. However, their atmospheres needs more study before determining whether they could support some type of life. 
Astronomical terms
  • Exoplanet: It is a planet that does not orbit the Sun and instead orbits a different star, stellar remnant, or brown dwarf. It is also termed as extrasolar planet.
  • Goldilocks Zone: It refers to a habitable zone in space where the temperature is neither too high nor too low. Such conditions could allow for the presence on the planet’s surface of liquid water – a key ingredient for life.

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Government launches Bharat QR code

The Union Government has launched Bharat QR code, a quick response (QR) code to enable digital payments without card swiping machines.

It is world’s first interoperable payment acceptance solution launched by Indian Government to move towards less-cash economy.

Key facts
  • Bharat QR code has been developed by jointly by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), Visa, MasterCard and American Express under instructions from Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • It works as common interface for the MasterCard/Visa/RuPay platforms and also facilitate acceptance of Aadhaar-enabled payments and Unified Payments Interface (UPI).
  • It enables person to make payments to retailers without using the merchant’s ID or number. It eliminated need of using card swiping machines making digital payments.
  • Using, BharatQR code merchants will be required to only display one QR code instead of multiple ones. Users can make payment by scanning the code.
  • BharatQR code is of two types static and dynamic. In static QR code, first code need to be scanned and then amount is entered to make payment.
  • In case of dynamic QR code, new QR code will be generated in real time for every transaction. In this case there is no need to enter the amount. The payment is just made by scanning and entering the PIN.
 What is QR code?
  • QR code (Quick Response code) is a two-dimensional (matrix) machine-readable bar code made up of black and white square. This code can be read by the camera of a smartphone.
  • It is used for storing URLs or other information that link directly to text, emails websites phone numbers. It is capable of 360 degrees (omni-directional), high speed reading.
  • QR Code can store up to 7089 digits as compared to conventional bar codes which can store max 20 digits. It encodes same amount of data in one-tenth the space of a traditional bar code.
  • It carries information both horizontally and vertically. It has error correction capability and data stored in it can be restored even if it is partially damaged or dirty.

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Scientists discover four new miniature frog species in Western Ghats

Scientists have discovered four new species of miniature night frogs no bigger than a human thumbnail in Western Ghats, a global biodiversity hotspot.

These species were discovered among the seven new ‘Night Frogs’ by a team of researchers from the University of Delhi and Kerala Forest Department.

Key Facts
  • Four new species of miniature night frogs are (i) Athirappilly Night Frog: It was discovered close to the Athirappilly waterfalls. (ii) Sabarimala Night Frog: It was discovered near the Sabarimala hill shrine.  (iii) The Radcliffe’s Night frog and (iv) Kadalar Night Frog: They were reported from plantation areas.
  • Night Frogs belong to the Nyctibatrachus genus, endemic to the Western Ghats. They make a distinctive chirping sound comparable to that of a cricket.
  • These tiny amphibians are present in abundance in the region but were overlooked in the past because of their extremely small size, secretive habitats and insect-like calls.
  • They were confirmed as the new species with the help of integrated taxonomic approach that included DNA studies, detailed bioacoustics and morphological comparisons.
  • Threats: Over 32% of the frog species in the Western Ghats are threatened with extinction. Out of the seven new species, 5 face considerable anthropogenic extinction threats and require immediate conservation.
  • Ancient Group: Night Frogs represent an ancient group of frogs that diversified on the Indian landmass approximately 70 to 80 million years ago.
  • Total Nyctibatrachus species: This discovery has taken the total number of known Nyctibatrachus species to 35, of which 20% are less than 18 mm in size (i.e. they are diminutive).
  • As many as 103 new amphibian species were discovered from biodiversity rich Western Ghats region between 2006 and 2015.

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