Study suggests that Mars contains more oxygen-rich water than previously thought
by Elton Gomes
Water on Mars could hold more oxygen than previously believed. The water could be enough to support aerobic respiration, according to a new research that runs contrary to traditional beliefs about the Red planet’s habitability.
The researchers conducting the study thought organisms that require oxygen wouldn’t be able to survive on Mars, since the atmosphere is so thin. In addition, water on Mars has only been confirmed in the form of ice or hydrated minerals. So previously, the possibility of salty, oxygen-rich puddles of water beneath Mars’ surface was not considered.
What has the study found
The study was conducted by scientists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The scientists calculated that if liquid water exists on Mars, it could — under specific conditions — contain more oxygen than previously thought.
According to the study published in Nature Geoscience , the oxygen levels could theoretically exceed the threshold needed to support simple aerobic life.
Using sophisticated computer models, the team determined that it is possible for puddles to exist and potentially support microbes. Mars’ poles are areas where the temperature is lower and pressure is higher, thus there could be chances of more oxygen being added to water. The poles are the most likely place where evidence of life can be scouted for.
In the best-case scenario, the puddles could have enough oxygen to support more complex organisms, like sponges. “If there are brines on Mars, then the oxygen would have no choice but to infiltrate them,” the study’s co-author Woody Fischer, a geobiologist at Caltech said in a press release. “The oxygen would make it everywhere,” Smithsonian reported.
On the other had, even when the worst case scenario was considered, there would still be enough oxygen in the water to allow bacterial life to develop.
“We were absolutely flabbergasted,” said lead author Vlada Stamenković of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “I went back to recalculate everything like five different times to make sure it’s a real thing,” according to the Smithsonianreport.
What do the findings indicate
The finding opposes the current, accepted view of Mars and its potential for hosting habitable environments. The existence of liquid water on Mars remains uncertain. Even if it is there, researchers doubt that it might be oxygenated, given that Mars’ atmosphere is about 160 times thinner than that of Earth and mostly contains carbon dioxide.
“Oxygen is a key ingredient when determining the habitability of an environment, but it is relatively scarce on Mars,” Woody Fischer said in an official statement.
“Nobody ever thought that the concentrations of dissolved oxygen needed for aerobic respiration could theoretically exist on Mars,” NASA’s Vlada Stamenković said further.
Why is this important
The findings could help future missions to Mars by providing better targets to search for signs of past or present habitable environments, Stamenković said in the official statement.
It is important to keep in mind what Stamenković says. She told the Smithsonian, “This is all hypothetical, but worth exploring.” The study is only a model, and there’s no conclusive proof of the existence of puddles, liquid water, or any life form on Mars as of now.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius.
World’s first hydrogen fuel cell train with clean energy starts rolling in Germany
Germany now has a hydrogen fuel cell-powered train, which is a world’s first. The trains are officially called as Coradia iLint,
thanx: The Indian Express.
Germany now has a hydrogen fuel cell-powered train, which is a world’s first. The trains are officially called as Coradia iLint, and these will operate in northern German towns. This is the first time in the world that commercial trains being powered by hydrogen-based cells have gone into use for passengers.
The train was manufactured by Alstom, which is one of Europe’s largest railway manufacturers and the service officially started on September 16. According to a press release from Alstom, the Coradia iLint has been built in Salzgitter, Germany and relies on fuel cells which will convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity.
The idea with these hydrogen based trains is to move away from diesel based systems, which cause more pollution emissions. Two such trains now have a commercial service with a fixed timetable in the Lower Saxony part of Germany, and more will be added by 2021 to the region.
The trains are low-noise, zero-emission and can reach speeds of up to 140 km per hour, according to the company. For now, the trains will only operate on 100 km of line running between Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervörde and Buxtehude, though they are capable of running longer distances. These will replace the current diesel fleet on the train line and help reduce emissions.
The trains will be refueled at a mobile hydrogen filling station from a 40-foot-high steel container next to the tracks at Bremervörde station, according to the press release. While the trains will help reduce pollution they can also run for longer distances. One tank of the hydrogen train can run throughout the network the whole day, which is around 1000 kms, according to the company.
Alstom plans to deliver a further 14 Coradia iLint trains to the network by 2021. Hydrogen is seen as a low-emission and efficient alternative to diesel, which ensures that the trains are environment friendly.
The scientists working at NASA think that they have found the outer boundary of our solar system. It was earlier thought to be not properly defined. Now, they have said that their New Horizons spacecraft can see that invisible boundary. They have named it the “hydrogen wall.” It is located at the edge of our solar system.
The hydrogen wall has been described by the scientists as the place where bubbles of solar wind cease to exist. The mass of interstellar matter here is very small but strong enough to not let the solar winds to pass through. At the same time, it is not so strong to bust through the solar wind build up. It acts like a wall pressing the solar winds inward.
The sun keeps throwing out jets of matter and energy in the form of solar winds. They travel far beyond the orbit of Pluto. Till now scientists believed that the solar winds, beyond Pluto, merged with the galactic energy in space within our Milky Way galaxy.
New evidence points that the matter and energy carried by the solar winds accumulate in a particular region building hydrogen wall. It is the region where solar matter builds a formation with the interstellar matter. Hydrogen is the most common matter in space.
The Sun is almost wholly composed of hydrogen. It burns to give energy and helium, an inert gas on the sun.Data sent by New Horizons have made NASA scientists believe that the outer boundary of the solar system must be made up of hydrogen. An analysis of the latest evidence gathered by New Horizons was published by the NASA scientists earlier this week.
However, the scientists have warned that the discovery may not be final. They said that New Horizons could actually have detected ultraviolet rays and not a hydrogen wall, as the scientists believe.
New Horizons was launched in January 2006. It went past Pluto in 2015
THANKS: INDIA TODAY
DEDICATED BY : KAVIGNAR THANIGAI.
dedicated by: Kavignar Thanigai.
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe to Launch on Saturday, the First Spacecraft to ‘Touch Sun’
NASA counted down Friday to the launch of a $1.5 billion (about Rs. 10,300 crores) spacecraft that aims to plunge into the Sun’s sizzling atmosphere and become humanity’s first mission to explore a star.
The car-sized Parker Solar Probe is scheduled to blast off on a Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida early Saturday.
The 65-minute launch window opens at 3:33 am (1:03pm IST), and the weather forecast is 70 percent favorable for takeoff, NASA said.
By coming closer to the Sun than any spacecraft in history, the probe’s main goal is to unveil the secrets of the corona, the unusual atmosphere around Sun.
Not only is the corona about 300 times hotter than the Sun’s surface, it also hurls powerful plasma and energetic particles that can unleash geomagnetic space storms, wreaking havoc on Earth by disrupting the power grid.
But these solar outbursts are poorly understood.
“The Parker Solar Probe will help us do a much better job of predicting when a disturbance in the solar wind could hit Earth,” said Justin Kasper, one of the project scientists and a professor at the University of Michigan.
‘Full of mysteries’
The probe is protected by an ultra-powerful heat shield that is just 4.5 inches thick (11.43 centimeters).
The shield should enable the spacecraft to survive its close shave with the center of our solar system, coming within 3.83 million miles (6.16 million kilometers) of the Sun’s surface.
The heat shield is built to withstand radiation equivalent up to about 500 times the Sun’s radiation here on Earth.
Even in a region where temperatures can reach more than a million degrees Fahrenheit, the sunlight is expected to heat the shield to just around 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,371 degrees Celsius).
Scorching, yes? But if all works as planned, the inside of the spacecraft should stay at just 85 F (29 C).
The goal for the Parker Solar Probe is to make 24 passes through the corona during its seven-year mission.
“The sun is full of mysteries,” said Nicky Fox, Project Scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab.
“We are ready. We have the perfect payload. We know the questions we want to answer.”
The tools on board will measure the expanding corona and continually flowing atmosphere known as the solar wind, which solar physicist Eugene Parker first described back in 1958.
Parker, now 91, recalled that at first, some people did not believe in his theory.
But then, the launch of NASA’s Mariner 2 spacecraft in 1962 — becoming the first robotic spacecraft to make a successful planetary encounter — proved them wrong.
“It was just a matter of sitting out the deniers for four years until the Venus Mariner 2 spacecraft showed that, by golly, there was a solar wind,” Parker said earlier this week.
He added that he is “impressed” by the Parker Solar Probe, calling it “a very complex machine.”
Scientists have wanted to build a spacecraft like this for more than 60 years, but only in recent years did the heat shield technology advance enough to be capable of protecting sensitive instruments, according to Fox.
Tools on board will measure high energy particles associated with flares and coronal mass ejections, as well as the changing magnetic field around the Sun.
“We will also be listening for plasma waves that we know flow around when particles move,” Fox added.
“And last but not least, we have a white light imager that is taking images of the atmosphere right in front of the Sun.”
When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel rapidly enough to go from New York to Tokyo in one minute — some 430,000 miles (700,000 kilometers) per hour, making it the fastest human-made object.
- Parker Solar Probe is scheduled to blast off on a Delta IV Heavy rocket
- The probe’s main goal is to unveil the secrets of the corona
- The inside of the spacecraft is planned to stay at just 85 F (29 C)
R. Praggnanandhaa — The boy whom defeat can’t touch
R. Praggnanandhaa isn’t perturbed when he loses. He smiles and finds a way to bounce back. This resilience has played a part in the 12-year-old becoming the second-youngest Grandmaster in chess history. What else can he accomplish
As one of India’s leading chess coaches, R.B. Ramesh is used to listening to complaints from parents about their children training under him. Still, the Chennai-based Grandmaster (GM) was surprised to hear what a worried mother had to say of her little son.
“He doesn’t seem to be bothered even after losing a game badly,” Nagalakshmi had told Ramesh. “He comes out of the venue smiling after a defeat.”
This quality, though, came in particularly handy for R. Praggnanandhaa recently.
Last month at the Schaakweek Apeldoorn tournament in the Netherlands, where he was hoping to complete his GM title and make history, he lost six of nine games. He finished second from the bottom, having started out as the fourth seed. It was, according to Ramesh, the worst performance of his career.
Praggnanandhaa wasn’t perturbed, however. He prepared instead for his next tournament, the Gredine Open, which was to kick off in the small Italian town of Ortisei just a day later.
He lost no time in shrugging off his poor showing and finished second — this time from the top.
And he made history, too. He became the world’s second-youngest GM ever, at the age of 12 years, 10 months and 13 days. (For the uninitiated, the GM title is the highest in chess; lesser mortals are perfectly content to be International Masters or FIDE Masters).
To complete his title, Praggnanandhaa scored his final GM norm in Ortisei — the title needs three norms, which are obtained with a specific number of points at GM events. He had already touched 2500 ELO points, the other requirement.
He had scored his maiden norm last year at the World Junior Championship, which, too, was hosted by Italy. Had he won it, he would have got the GM title directly and broken the record set by Sergey Karjakin (12 years, 7 months) in 2002.
The World juniors is easily the most important of all the age-group tournaments, and its previous winners include Russians Garry Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov and Boris Spassky as well as India’s own Viswanathan Anand, all of whom have gone on to win the World title.
In Italy, Praggnanandhaa scored eight points, only half-a-point less than the champion, Aryan Tari of Norway. He finished fourth in a tournament that is meant for players below the age of 20; he was only 11 at the time.
He made his second GM norm from the Fischer Memorial tournament at Heraklion, Greece, in April. He did that in style too, winning the event with seven points from nine rounds.
The exposure in Europe has certainly helped Praggnanandhaa, not just in gaining the norms but also in sharpening his skills against stronger opponents, day in, day out.
He could consider himself lucky to find a sponsor in P.R. Venkatrama Raja, the Ramco Systems chairman who is also the president of the All India Chess Federation.
Competitive chess is an expensive affair. You need more than a chessboard and a computer. You have to play a large number of tournaments, both domestic and international, and work with top-quality coaches.
Praggnanandhaa is fortunate in this regard, too. After learning the intricacies of the game from M.A. Velayudham, he began to train under Ramesh, who was one of India’s sharpest tactical players before he quit his public-sector job and became a full-time coach.
“I met him for the first time four years ago at a function in Chennai, organised by journalists, and I was a guest,” recalls Ramesh. “Praggnanandhaa was one of the winners. After the ceremony, his father Rameshbabu told me that he would like me to train both his children.”
Praggnanandhaa’s elder sister, R. Vaishali, who has to her credit a couple of World youth titles, had already made her mark. “Vaishali was, of course, the stronger player then, but not for long; and that, I think, upset her for a while,” says Ramesh. “She has played a role in Praggnanandhaa’s career. It is great if you have another quality player at home as you grow up.”
So, Praggnanandhaa doesn’t have to look too far for a sparring partner. The siblings often play in the same tournaments, especially at age-group championships, in which they compete in different categories.
You meet the duo along with their mother at chess venues. And as Nagalakshmi told Ramesh, you don’t find Praggnanandhaa fretting after a bad game.
“That is not very usual, especially for someone as young as him,” says T.J. Suresh Kumar, who was the coach of the Indian teams for a couple of Asian youth championships Praggnanandhaa took part in. “Normally children do not want to go back and analyse the games they lost, but Praggnanandhaa happily does that.”
Ramesh points out another trait that sets Praggnanandhaa apart from others. “He knows that he is good and that he can succeed without working hard, but he is still glad to toil,” says the coach. “And he is ambitious.”
What, then, are his ambitions in chess? When The Hindu poses that question to him, Praggnanandhaa says: “My ultimate aim is to become the World Champion. But right now my aim is to improve my rating.”
His rating at the moment stands at 2535. You need to be around 2650 to break into the world’s top 100 (he is ranked 562nd now).
“He is certainly capable of breaching the 2700 mark,” says Ramesh. “I believe he could be among the top 10 one day. Once he does that, anything is possible.”
He got an opportunity to test his skills against a top player earlier this month. At the Leon Masters in Spain, he put up a great fight against World No. 7 Wesley So. In a match of four games, he scored 1.5 against the American’s 2.5; he won one, lost two and drew one.
After the match, his opponent called him a genius. Leading chess photographer David Llada was more eloquent. He tweeted: “A tiger from Madras roars in the Spanish town of Leon. Haven’t I seen this movie before?”
It will be fascinating to watch the tiger cub’s moves across the 64 squares in the sequel over the next few years.
thanks : the Hindu 28
Dedicated by: Kavignar Thanigai.
Teams fan out to 117 districts to ensure delivery of Central welfare schemes
A battalion of Central government IAS officers has been drafted to ensure on the ground implementation as the Centre races to saturate 117 “aspirational districts” with seven flagship social welfare schemes by Independence Day.
Prime Minister Modi is scheduled to meet 2.5 lakh beneficiaries of these schemes in Jaipur on Saturday, and has pointed to this campaign as a model for future implementation of welfare delivery.
However, questions are being raised about Centre-State relations under this model, in an election year.
At least 800 Deputy Secretaries, Under-Secretaries and Director-level officers, drawn from Ministries as diverse as Defence and Urban Affairs, have been assigned about 75 villages to visit, as part of the Extended Gram Swaraj Abhiyan (EGSA) from June 1 to August 15. In total, 49,178 villages — most with a majority SC/ST population — are being targeted.
The Hindu spoke to officers from the on-ground teams, as well as with senior officials from the Ministries of Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, and the Department of Personnel and Training, which are jointly coordinating the drive.
“Mostly, we are sent out in teams of two to four people,” explained a deputy secretary, who did not want to named.
Over the two-and-a-half month period, these Central officials are being absorbed into EGSA duty for at least 15 working days.
In each village, the Central team convenes a meeting of villagers and beneficiaries along with a State government or district official, a lead bank representative and local officials from the agencies responsible for enrolling people into the schemes.
“We monitor the scheme, get feedback…If there are any hurdles, we can sort it out on the spot,” said a director-level IAS officer, who disclosed that central officers could direct the local representatives to give immediate sanction for gas cylinders, bank accounts or electricity connections.
The teams can also directly input the day’s progress into a data system. “You can track it live on the EGSA dashboard,” said a senior official of the Rural Development Ministry, pointing to egsa.nic.in.
Senior Ministry officials also make direct daily calls to a section of District Collectors to monitor progress, while third-party observers for each district —mostly from NGOs or academia — have been drafted in to do random checks of villages and report back to the Ministry.
One IAS officer said while most State officials were cooperative, some are not happy with the direct involvement of central officials. Two officers said their work load back in Delhi had been put on hold while they were on the field.
“These are central schemes although the implementation is being done by States. Government of India wants to see total saturation. To ensure this happens, it’s better to depute our own officers,” an IAS officer said, explaining the rationale of the exercise.
The rate of enrolment during the duration of the scheme has been the most impressive in the Saubhagya scheme, which offers power connections to each household, and in the Indra Dhanush Missions to vaccinate children and pregnant women, but the RD Ministry is confident of meeting its targets.
“By August 15, we would have reached 65,000 villages [including a target from a similar drive in May]. That is 15% of the rural population,” said a senior Ministry official. “A lot of such initiatives have to be done in campaign mode. Saturation targets create pressure.”
Addressing the NITI Aayog Governing Council earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said the Gram Swaraj Abhiyan has emerged as a new model for implementation of schemes.
However, the large-scale involvement of Central officers raises questions about the viability of such drives, and about roles in a federal democracy.
“This is a deeply problematic way of going about welfare delivery…Constitutionally, while the Centre has higher powers of taxation, the bulk of the expenditure on welfare is to be done by the States,” said Yamini Aiyar, president of the Centre for Policy Research, pointing out that as Chief Minister,
Mr. Modi had himself vehemently opposed central intervention in matters that were constitutionally the domain of the States.
Ms. Aiyar added that while the centralising trend in flagship welfare scheme — which allows the ruling party at the Centre to draw political mileage and build vote banks — has been seen for some time, this NDA government has further entrenched it, to the detriment of the federal architecture. Direct connections to the district administration tend to bypass State administrations, while sending out large Central teams to do the work of local officials fails to empower local human resources, she said.
“The new approach is not just centralised, but also personalised, converging his [Mr Modi’s] political style with administrative functioning,” she pointed out. “It may create a veneer of efficiency and a high quality publicity campaign, but it undermines the logic of federalism.”
thanks: priscilla jebaraj