Indian Express EXPLAINED _ Current Affairs for UPSC _ June 2021, Week-1

  • What are the two missions that NASA has selected for Venus Exploration? (Science & technology)
  • What puts Lions and Tigers at coronavirus risk? (Science & technology)
  • How Indians see the economy (Economy)
  • Speed Test

Current Affairs: What are the two missions that NASA has selected for Venus Exploration?| June Explained

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Science & Technology | Mains: GS Paper III – Science & Technology

Sub Theme: Venus Exploration | UPSC

NASA has selected two missions to the planet Venus, Earth’s nearest neighbour. The missions are DAVINCI+ and VERITAS. NASA is expected to launch these missions between 2028-2030.

About Venus

  • Venus has a solid surface by virtue of being one of the 3 inner planets besides Mercury and Earth.
  • It is nearly the same size of the earth.
  • The atmosphere of Venus is composed of 95% carbon dioxide and thus high greenhouse effect.
  • Sulfur compounds make up about 0.015% due to volcanic eruptions and thus hot Sulfuric acid clouds that envelop Venus.
  • About 80% of the surface of Venus is composed of flat plains of volcanic origin.
  • Venus is the second-brightest object in the sky after the moon. It appears bright because of its thick cloud cover that reflects and scatters light.
  • It is the hottest planet in the solar system, despite coming after Mercury.
  • Unusual thing about Venus is that its rotation period is longer than its orbital period. (Rotation on its own axis – 243 days, Orbital period around the sun - 224.7 days)
  • It is the only planet which has retrograde rotation, meaning it spins in the direction opposite to the direction in which it orbits the Sun. (Sun would rise in west and set in east on Venus).
  • Venus also does not have a moon and no rings.
  • Due to slow rotation of Venus it has no global magnetic field. (earth’s magnetic field is due to rotation of iron core)

Missions to Venus

  • The first spacecraft to Venus was was the Soviet Union’s Venera series (the spacecraft, however, could not survive for long because of the planet’s harsh conditions).
  • Mariner 2 – NASA’s flyby: 1962
  • Venera 8 - Soviet Union’s Lander: 1972
  • Galileo (1989), Cassini (1997), Messenger (2004) – Gravity assisted Missions of NASA
  • NASA’s Magellan Mission that studied Venus from 1990-1994.
  • The European Venus Express mission operated in orbit around the planet from 2006 through 2014.
  • As of now, Japan’s Akatsuki mission is studying the planet from Orbit.
  • Shukrayaan-1 is a proposed orbiter to Venus by the Indian Space Research Organisation to study the surface and atmosphere of Venus.

Why Venus in focus

Nature Astronomy published a paper on findings of phosphine gas on Venus. Prof. Greaves first identified phosphine in Venus’s atmosphere in 2017, using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii. Further study and precise observations using the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array facility in Chile confirmed the suspicions of the researchers in 2019.

Significance of Phosphine gas

  • It is considered as a biosignature gas.
  • Phosphene is natural biproduct of life. (It is either manufactured by us or is produced as a by-product of life.)
  • Phosphene has no abiotic false positives (nothing but life can naturally produce the gas on earth)

A biosignature is any substance – such as an element, isotope, or molecule – or phenomenon that provides scientific evidence of past or present life.

On Earth, PH₃ is associated with anaerobic ecosystems, and as such, it is a potential biosignature gas in anoxic exoplanets.

Biosignature Gases

  1. Oxygen
  2. Ozone
  3. Methane
  4. Nitrous Oxide
  5. Methyl Bromide
  6. Methyl Chloride
  7. Hydrogen Sulfide
  8. Carbonyl Sulfide
  9. Phosphine
  10. Sulfur Dioxide

It is thought Venus started out very similar to the Earth. While on Earth, carbon is mainly trapped in rocks, on Venus it has escaped into the atmosphere - making it roughly 96 per cent carbon dioxide. This has led to a runaway greenhouse effect, pushing surface temperatures up to 470 degree Celsius.

The planet's history makes it an excellent place to study the greenhouse effect atmospheric extremes of Venus, and compare the results to what we see back home.

Understanding the Venus-Earth difference is really key to understanding how planets evolve in general, and how habitable conditions evolve.

Davinci+ (a shortening of Deep Atmosphere of Venus Investigations of Noble Gases, Chemistry and Imaging)

  • It is a descent mission.
  • It will be dropped through the atmosphere, taking measurements as it goes. The probe will be looking at the composition of the atmosphere in detail, providing information on each layer as it falls. We know sulphuric acid is confined to cloud layers at around 50km (30 miles) up, and we know that the atmosphere is 97 per cent carbon dioxide.
  • But studying trace elements can provide information on how the atmosphere ended up in this state. The descent probe will be looking at lower altitudes to measure weather properties such as wind speed, temperature and pressure in detail.
  • The last stage of probe will take surface images in high resolution. While this is very common for Mars, it has always been a challenge on Venus. The thick cloud layer means visible light is reflected, so observing from Earth or from orbit isn't practical. The intense surface conditions also mean rovers are impractical.
  • We have a low resolution image of the surface of Venus, thanks to Nasa's Magellan mission in 1990, which mapped the surface using radar.
  • The Davinci probe will take surface images using infrared light during its descent. It will return the first high resolution pictures of the unique geological features on Venus known as “tesserae,” which may be comparable to Earth’s continents, suggesting that Venus has plate tectonics.
  • DAVINCI+ will host the Compact Ultraviolet to Visible Imaging Spectrometer (CUVIS). These observations will be used to determine the nature of the unknown ultraviolet absorber in Venus’ atmosphere that absorbs up to half the incoming solar energy.

Veritas (Venus Emissivity, Radio science, InSAR, Topography and Spectroscopy)

It will map Venus' surface in detail from orbit using radar and monitor infrared surface emissions, which will reveal how rock type varies from place to place. Such observations will shed light on Venus' geologic history and climate evolution and help researchers determine if the planet hosts active plate tectonics and volcanism today.


Current Affairs:What puts Lions and Tigers at coronavirus risk? | June Explained

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Science & Technology

Sub Theme: ACE-2 protein and Coronavirus risk | UPSC  

A lioness at Chennai's Vandalur Zoo died of suspected coronavirus infection last week. A 10-year-old tiger also died at Ranchi's Bhagwan Birsa Biological Park after suffering from fever.  Since then, samples of nine lions have tested positive at the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases at Bhopal.

The defining feature of a coronavirus is the spike protein on its surface. The spike protein initiates infection by binding with a host protein, called ACE2 receptor. Different species express ACE2 to different extents, and this plays a key role in determining how much a species is susceptible to coronavirus infection.

In various studies, domestic cats and their big cousins have been found or estimated to express ACE2 more significantly than many other species. Also, there are similarities in the ACE2 of cats and humans.

Researchers of the University of Bologna collected tissues from six cats and a tiger and found wide expression of ACE2 in their gastrointestinal tracts. This was more prominent in the cats than in the tiger.

In December last year, a paper in PLOS Computational Biology looked at the ACE2 receptors of 10 different species and compared their affinity for binding with the virus spike protein.

The most vulnerable species to coronavirus infection, next to humans, are ferrets, followed by cats and civets.


Current Affairs: How Indians see the economy | June Explained

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Economy | Mains: GS Paper III – Economy  

Sub Theme: Consumer Confidence Survey  | UPSC

Recently, the RBI has published its Bi-monthly Consumer Confidence Survey for May 2021.According to this survey, the consumer sentiment about the Indian economy has declined to all-time low.

Importance of Consumer Confidence

  • In case of India, the consumption expenditure accounts for almost 60% of India's GDP and hence it is considered to be the major driver of economic growth and development.
  • The main driver of the consumption expenditure is the Consumer Confidence. If the consumers are optimistic about the current and future economic state of country, then they would spend more money leading to increase in the GDP. On the other hand, if the Consumer confidence is low, this can lead to decrease in the consumption expenditure and hence impacts the GDP Growth rate.
  • Hence, there is a need to measure the consumer confidence in a country to understand the prospects of economic growth.

About Consumer Confidence Survey (CCS)

  • The Consumer Confidence survey is conducted by the RBI in 13 major cities of India and covers almost over 5,000 respondents. The survey measures consumer perception (current and future) on five economic variables - economic situation, employment, the price level, income and spending.
  • The Consumer Confidence survey has two main indices - current situation index and future expectations index. The current situation index measures the change in consumer perception over an economic issue in the last one year while the future expectations index measures what consumer thinks about the same variables, one year ahead.
  • A consumer confidence Index above 100 gives optimistic perception of the consumers while reading below 100 denotes pessimistic perception.

Snapshot of Consumer Confidence Survey- May 2021

Major Highlights:

(a) The Current Situation Index (CSI) has declined to all time low of 48.5. In other words, more than 50% of the respondents felt that they are worse off at present in comparison to a year ago.

(b) The Future expectations index (FCI) has also been declined to below 100. This shows pessimistic expectations about future economic growth in India.

Key Takeaways:

The survey has highlighted that the Indians have cut down on their expenses presently. They are likely to do so even in future. The decline in the consumption expenditure is mainly due to weak consumer confidence and sentiment about the Indian economy. Their perception about present and future employment situation also remains bleak. Unless consumer confidence improves, consumption expenditure will not pick up. Unless the expenditure picks up, the private sector will be reluctant to undertake investment, boost job creation and hence economic revival

Hence, one of the biggest takeaways is to boost consumer sentiment and confidence. This is possible through counter cyclical fiscal policy accompanied by renewed push to create jobs, enhancing income levels and faster economic revival.


SURBHI JAIN 1 week ago

rotation period of mars is 1 day, wrongly explained.