Solar Deepavali and satellites to study sun
- A solar flare that occurred on the Sun triggered a magnetic storm which scientists from Centre of Excellence in Space Sciences India (CESSI), in Indian Institutes for Science Education and Research, Kolkata, had predicted will arrive at the Earth in the early hours of November 4, and they said that the magnitude of this storm would be such as to trigger spectacular displays of aurora (the coloured bands of light seen in the North and South poles) in the high-latitude and polar regions, just in time for the Deepavali celebrations in India.
- Judging by data from the NASA DSCOVR satellite, the scientists observed a steep jump in transverse magnetic fields, density and speeds of the plasma wind that are tell-tale signatures of the arrival of a coronal mass ejection (CME) shock front.
- The solar magnetic cycle that works in the deep interior of the Sun creates regions that rise to the surface and appear like dark spots. These are the sunspots.
- Solar flares are highly energetic phenomena that happen inside the sunspots.
- In a solar flare, the energy stored in the Sun’s magnetic structures is converted into light and heat energy.
- This causes the emission of high energy x-ray radiation and highly accelerated charged particles to leave the Sun’s surface.
- Sometimes solar flares also cause hot plasma to be ejected from the Sun, causing a solar storm, and this is called Coronal Mass Ejection (CME).
- Coronal Mass Ejections can harbour energies exceeding that of a billion atomic bombs.
- The energy, radiation and high-energy particles emitted by the flares can affect Earth-bound objects and life on Earth it can affect the electronics within satellites and affect astronauts.
- Very powerful Earth-directed coronal mass ejections can cause failure of power grids and affect oil pipelines and deep-sea cables.
- They can also cause spectacular aurorae in the high-latitude and polar countries.
- The last time a major blackout due to a coronal mass ejection was recorded was in 1989 – a powerful geomagnetic storm that took down the North American power grid, plunging large parts of Canada into darkness and triggering spectacular aurorae beyond the polar regions
- European Space Agency’s SOHO satellite.
- The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) is a spacecraft built by a European industrial consortium led by Matra Marconi Space (now Airbus Defence and Space) that was launched on a Lockheed Martin Atlas II.
- AS launch vehicle on December 2, 1995, to study the Sun. It has also discovered over 4,000 comets.
- It began normal operations in May 1996. It is a joint project between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA.
- Originally planned as a two-year mission, SOHO continues to operate after over 25 years in space; the mission has been extended until the end of 2020 with a likely extension until 2022.
NASA STEREO Satellite
- Launched in October
- 2006, the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, has provided scientists a unique and revolutionary view of the Sun-Earth System.
- Composed of two nearly identical observatories one ahead of Earth in its orbit, the other trailing behind STEREO has traced the flow of energy and matter from the Sun to Earth.
· NASA DSCOVR satellite
- Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR; formerly known as Triana, unofficially known as GoreSat is a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) space weather, space climate, and Earth observation satellite.
- It was launched by SpaceX on a Falcon 9 v1.1 launch vehicle on 11 February 2015, from Cape Canaveral.
- This is NOAA’s first operational deep space satellite and became its primary system of warning Earth in the event of solar magnetic storms.
- Scientists studying the galaxy Messier 87 (M87) which surrounds the only black hole to have been imaged so far have come up with a theoretical model of the jets of material emanating from M87.
- The calculated images published in Nature Astronomy resemble closely what is observed, and help confirm Einstein’s theory of relativity.
- Researchers found that the thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN) a region that forms a capsule around the thalamus of the brain played a role in the connection between sleep disturbance and Alzheimer’s in mouse models.
- Reduced TRN activity was found to reduce slow-wave sleep and its activation restored sleep and reduced amyloid plaques in mice.
- Developing an accurate record of radiocarbon in the atmosphere from 55,000 years ago is key to understanding Earth’s processes, climate change and our future. In an article in Science, researchers described this.
- For example, radiocarbon holds fingerprints of solar storms, which can today destroy much of our communications network.
- Radiocarbon (carbon 14) is an isotope of the element carbon that is unstable and weakly radioactive. .Carbon 14 is continually being formed in the upper atmosphere by the effect of cosmic ray neutrons on nitrogen 14 atoms. It is rapidly oxidized in air to form carbon dioxide and enters the global carbon cycle.
Sponges and the brain
- Despite having not a single neuron to call a brain, sponges perform complicated tasks such as filtering out tens of thousands of liters of water through their bodies to collect food.
- A recent study published in Science found that they use a complex cell communication system to regulate feeding and weed out harmful bacteria.
- This could be a feature from which the complex nervous systems evolved.
India stand on methane emissions
- At the ongoing UN Climate Change Conference (the 26th Conference of Parties-COP26) in Glasgow, the United States and the European Union have jointly pledged to cut emissions of the greenhouse gas methane by 2030.
- They plan to cut down emissions by 30% compared with the 2020 levels.
- At least 90 countries have signed the Global Methane Pledge, with India and China abstaining so far. Separately, 133 countries have signed a Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use a declaration initiated by the United Kingdom to “halt deforestation” and land degradation by 2030. China, too, is a signatory to this but India has stayed out.
- Methane accounts for about a fifth of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and is about 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere.
- In the last two centuries, methane concentrations in the atmosphere have more than doubled, mainly due to human-related activities. Because methane is short-lived, compared with carbon dioxide, but at the same time potent, the logic is that removing it would have a significant positive impact.
- Methane is emitted from a variety of anthropogenic (human-influenced) and natural sources.
- The human sources include landfills, oil and natural gas systems, agricultural activities as well as livestock rearing, coal mining, stationary and mobile combustion, wastewater treatment, and certain industrial processes.
- Sources of methane can be harnessed for energy and in principle reduce dependence on energy sources that emit high carbon dioxide but the lack of incentives and efficient energy markets to realize this is an impediment to curtailing methane emissions.
Why hasn’t India signed the pledge?
- India is the third largest emitter of methane, primarily because of the size of its rural economy and by virtue of having the largest cattle population. India has stated earlier that it plans to deploy technology and capture methane that can be used as a source of energy.
- In a communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, India said approximately 20% of its anthropogenic methane emissions come from agriculture (manure management), coal mines, municipal solid waste, and natural gas and oil systems.
- To tap into this “potential,” the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) claims to have invested heavily in a national strategy to increase biogas production and reduce methane emissions.
- “The biogas strategy includes many policy initiatives, capacity-building, and public-private partnerships.
- In addition to promoting biogas development, the strategy supports goals for sustainable development, sanitation improvements, and increased generation of renewable energy,” the MNRE notes.
The Glasgow Declaration
- The Glasgow Declaration was signed by 133 countries, which represent 90% of the globe’s forested land.
- The declaration is also backed by a $19-billion commitment, though whether this translates into legally binding flows remains to be seen.
- The Glasgow Declaration is a successor to a failed 2014 New York Declaration for Forests that for a while saw significant global traction and promised to reduce emissions from deforestation by 15%-20% by 2020 and end it by 2030.
- However, deforestation has only increased, and is responsible for about 20% of the total carbon emissions.
- One of the goals of the pledge, to halt deforestation, is to ensure that natural forests aren’t cleared out for commercial plantations.
- It also aims to halt industrial logging, though several independent estimates say the demand for wood pellets, which stokes deforestation, is only expected to increase.
- Finally, the declaration seeks to strengthen the rights of indigenous tribes and communities to forestland.
Why hasn’t India signed up?
- There is again no official reason accorded but reports suggest that Indian officials are unhappy with the wording that suggests meeting the obligations under the pledge could also mean restrictions in international trade.
- That is unacceptable, they say, as trade falls under the ambit of the World Trade Organization, of which India is a member.
- India is also mulling changes to its forest conservation laws that seek to encourage commercial tree plantation as well as infrastructure development in forestland.
- India’s long-term target is to have a third of its area under forest and tree cover, but it is so far 22%.
- It also proposes to create a carbon sink, via forests and plantations, to absorb 2.5-3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide.