5th Dec, 2020

Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) maps millions of galaxies

The Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) has recently mapped over three million galaxies in a record 300 hours during its first all-sky survey.

ASKAP is a powerful telescope developed and operated by Australia’s science agency CSIRO.

ASKAP is currently conducting pilot surveys of the sky before it can begin large-scale projects from 2021 onward.

ASKAP surveys are designed to map the structure and evolution of the Universe, which it does by observing galaxies and the hydrogen gas that they contain.

One of its most important features is its wide field of view.

It has been able to take panoramic pictures of the sky in great detail.

The telescope uses novel technology of a “radio camera” to achieve high survey speeds and consists of 36 dish antennas, which are each 12m in diameter.

The present Rapid ASKAP Continuum Survey (RACS) taken by the ASKAP telescope is like a “Google map” of the Universe where most of the millions of star-like points are distant galaxies, about a million of which have not been seen before.

Government approves Deputy Chief of Strategy post

A major restructure at the Army Headquarters has finally been approved by the government. 

The government has given its nod to create the position of a third Deputy Chief of Army.

He will act as a “single-point advice” person to the Vice Chief of Army on operational issues.

He will head operations, intelligence, perspective and information warfare. 

The Directorate General of Military Operations and the Directorate General of Military Intelligence, both headed by Lieutenant General-rank officers, will be under him. 

Two new offices, for Perspective Planning and Strategic Communications, which will also be headed by director generals of Lt Gen-rank, will also come under the new Deputy Chief.

The changes will start rolling out immediately.

Current DGMO Lt Gen Paramjit Singh is likely to be appointed the first Deputy Chief (Strategy). 

UN Decides Cannabis Not A Dangerous Narcotic

The UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) recently reclassified out of the most dangerous category of drugs.

The CND has decided to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

Earlier, cannabis was listed alongside deadly, addictive opioids, including heroin.

Now, it is removed from the strictest control schedules that even discouraged its use for medical purposes.

The removal has opened the door to recognizing the medicinal and therapeutic potential of the commonly-used but still largely illegal recreational drug.

The decision could also drive additional scientific research into the plant’s long-heralded medicinal properties and act as catalyst for countries to legalize the drug for medicinal use, and reconsider laws on its recreational use.

Twenty-seven of the CND’s 53 Member States — including India, the USA and most European nations — voted “Yes” on the motion to delete cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention.

Under India’s Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985, the production, manufacture, possession, sale, purchase, transport, and use of cannabis is a punishable offence.

Malayan Giant Squirrel could decline by 90% in India by 2050: Zoological Survey of India (ZSI)

A recent study by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has projected that numbers of the Malayan Giant Squirrel (Ratufa bicolor) could decline by 90% in India by 2050.

Ministry: Ministry of Environment

According to the ZSI, destruction of its habitat could restrict the squirrel to only southern Sikkim and North Bengal by 2050,.

Only 43.38% of the squirrel’s original habitat in India is now favourable to it

By 2050, the favourable zone could shrink to 2.94% of the area the species was meant to inhabit.

The Malayan Giant Squirrel is one of the world’s largest squirrel species. 

It has a dark upper body, pale under parts, and a long, bushy tail.

IUCN Status: Near Threatened 

It is protected under India’s Wildlife Protection Act.

Found in India: West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, and Nagaland. 

Other Countries: Southern China, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Burma, the Malayan Peninsula, Sumatra, and Java.

It is found mostly in evergreen and semi-evergreen forests, from plains to hills at elevations of 50 m to 1,500 m above sea level.

India is home to three giant squirrel species.

The other two – Indian Giant Squirrel and Grizzled Giant Squirrel – are found in peninsular India.

Unlike the nocturnal flying squirrels, giant squirrels are diurnal, but arboreal (tree-dwelling) and herbivorous like the flying squirrels.

HL-2M Tokamak: The Artificial Sun of China

China successfully powered up its “artificial sun” nuclear fusion reactor for the first time marking a great advance in the country’s nuclear power research capabilities.

The HL-2M Tokamak reactor is China’s largest and most advanced nuclear fusion experimental research device.

Name of the mission: Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST).

Location: Sichuan province 

The reactor is often called an “artificial sun” due to the enormous heat and power it produces.

It uses a powerful magnetic field to fuse hot plasma and can reach temperatures of over 150 million degrees Celsius which is approximately ten times hotter than the core of the sun.

Scientists hope that the device can potentially unlock a powerful clean energy source.

Nuclear fusion is a reaction in which two or more atomic nuclei are combined to form one or more different atomic nuclei and subatomic particles (neutrons or protons).

Fusion is the process by which the sun and other stars generate light and heat. 

It is a nuclear process, where energy is produced by smashing together light atoms.

It is the opposite reaction of fission, where heavy elements like Uranium and Thorium are split apart.

For a nuclear fusion reaction to occur, it is necessary to bring two nuclei so close that nuclear forces become active and glue the nuclei together.

Nuclear forces are small-distance forces and have to act against the electrostatic forces where positively charged nuclei repel each other.

This is the reason nuclear fusion reactions occur mostly in high density, high-temperature environment which is practically very difficult to achieve under laboratory conditions.

The 2nd Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) inaugurated

The Ministry of Science & Technology has inaugurated the 2nd Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) 2020 Conference.

TCGA is a landmark project started in 2005 by the US-based National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).

The idea was to make a catalogue of the genetic mutations that cause cancer.

Tumour samples and blood samples were collected from patients.

They were processed using gene sequencing and bioinformatics.

The TCGA has generated over 2.5 petabytes of data for over 11,000 patients.

The data has been used to develop new approaches to diagnose, treat and prevent cancer.

Indian Cancer Genome Atlas (ICGA) has also been initiated in India by a consortium of key stakeholders led by CSIR in which several government agencies, cancer hospitals, academic

institutions and private sector partners.

Aim: To improve clinical outcomes in cancer and other chronic diseases.

According to the World Cancer Report by the WHO, one in 10 Indians develops cancer during their lifetime and one in 15 dies of the disease.

Place in news: Bhashan Char Island

Recently, Bangladesh has transported more than 1,600 Rohingya refugees to a low-lying Bhashan Char island in the first phase of a controversial planned relocation of 1,00,000 people.

Bhashan Char Island

Bhasan Char also known as Char Piya, is an island in Hatiya, Bangladesh.

The island was formed with Himalayan silt in 2006.

It is underwater from June to September annually because of the monsoon, and it has no flood fences.

In June 2015, the Bangladeshi government suggested resettling Rohingya refugees on the island under its Ashrayan Project.

The proposal was characterized by the UN Refugee Agency as “logistically challenging”.

Bhashan Char is a flood-prone island that emerged from the sea 20 years ago.


(1) It is flood-prone island;

(2) Vulnerable to frequent cyclones;

(3) Too small to occupy and nurture the Rohingya population;

(4) Chronic overcrowding in camps.

Arecibo Telescope

Puerto Rico’s massive Arecibo telescope, famous for its stellar contributions to astronomy recently collapsed.

It is the second-largest single-dish radio telescope in the world.

Arecibo was first built in 1963. 

Owned by: The US National Science Foundation

It was employed to observe planets, asteroids and the ionosphere.

It had found prebiotic molecules in distant galaxies, the first exoplanets, and the first millisecond pulsar.

In 1967, Arecibo was able to discover that the planet Mercury rotates in 59 days and not 88 days as had been originally thought.

In 1993, scientists Russell Hulse and Joseph Taylor were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on the observatory in monitoring a binary pulsar, providing a strict test of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity and the first evidence for the existence of gravitational waves.