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Padma Awards:

  • 7 personalities have been awarded the Padma Vibhushan, 10 named for the Padma Bhushan and 102 named for Padma Shri.
  • The Padma Awards are one of the highest civilian honours of India announced annually on the eve of Republic Day.
  • The award seeks to recognize achievements in all fields of activities or disciplines where an element of public service is involved.
  • The Awards are conferred on the recommendations made by the Padma Awards Committee, which is constituted by the Prime Minister every year.
  • The Awards are given in three categories:
    • Padma Vibhushan (for exceptional and distinguished service).
    • Padma Bhushan (distinguished service of higher order).
    • Padma Shri (distinguished service).

ASTROSAT-IIA-NGC 2808-rare hot UV bright stars:

  • Astronomers exploring the massive intriguing globular cluster in our Galaxy called NGC 2808 that is said to have at least five generations of stars have spotted rare hot UV-bright stars in it.
  • These stars whose inner core is almost exposed, making them very hot, exist in the late stages of evolution of a Sun-like star. It is not clear how these stars end their lives as not many of them are detected in these fast-evolving phases, making their study crucial.
  • Motivated by the fact that old globular clusters referred to as dinosaurs of the universe present excellent laboratories where astronomers can understand how stars evolve through various phases between their birth and death, scientists looked out for NGC 2808.
  • With spectacular ultraviolet images of the cluster from Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (UVIT) onboard India’s first multi-wavelength space satellite, AstroSat, they distinguished the hot UV-bright stars from the relatively cooler red giant and main-sequence stars which appear dim in these images.
  • The team of scientists combined the UVIT data with observations made using other space missions such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the Gaia telescope along with ground-based optical observations. About 34 UV-bright stars were found to be members of the globular cluster. From the data, the team derived the properties of these stars such as their surface temperatures, luminosities and radii.
  • One of the UV-bright stars was found to be about 3000 times brighter than the Sun with a surface temperature of about 100,000 K.
  • The properties of these stars were then used to place them on what astronomers call the Hertzsprung-Russel (HR) diagram along with theoretical models to throw light on the characteristics of their parent stars and to predict their future evolution.
  • Most of the stars were found to have evolved from a solar stage called the horizontal branch stars with hardly any outer envelope. Thus they were bound to skip the last major phase of life called the asymptotic giant phase and directly become dead remnants or white dwarfs.
  • Such UV-bright stars are speculated to be the reason for the ultraviolet radiation coming from old stellar systems such as elliptical galaxies which are devoid of young blue stars. Hence, it is all the more important to observe more such stars to understand their properties.

IIT MADRAS- role of Chloride rich PM2.5 in visibility reduction:

  • An International Study led by Researchers from Indian Institute of Technology Madras has found Chloride to be the highest inorganic fraction in particulate matter, primarily responsible for haze and fog formation in Northern India including National capital Delhi.
  • Many studies in the past have identified PM2.5 (particulate matter or aerosol particles with diameter less than 2.5 micrometre) as a major pollutant, responsible for haze and fog formation over Indo-Gangetic plain including Delhi.
  • However, the role of PM2.5 and detailed chemistry of haze and fog formation over national capital was poorly understood.
  • Such a lack of understanding was the biggest hurdle in developing the policies to improve the air quality and visibility. This study now greatly enhances our understanding about the precise role of PM2.5 in chemistry of fog formation, which will help policy makers to frame the better policies for improving the air quality and visibility over national capital.
  • With the approaching winter season, every year, most of the Indo Gangetic Plain invariably is engulfed in a dense fog and haze, particularly during the months of December and January.
  • Over the national capital dense fog negatively impacts the air and surface transport resulting in huge financial losses and jeopardise human lives. Overall life comes to standstill during the dense fog.
  • This study not only provides the scientific explanation for source of high chloride in PM2.5 mass over Delhi but also quantifies its role in haze and fog formation and visibility reduction.
  • The HCl from various sources combines with ammonia, which is emitted in great amounts over this region. Thus, ammonium chloride (NH4Cl) so formed condenses to aerosol and exponentially increase the water uptake ability of aerosol particles resulting increase in size, eventually leading to dense fog formation. In the absence of the excess chloride, the fog formation otherwise would be suppressed significantly.
  • Enhancement in understanding of water uptake by particles in Delhi is of enormous significance as very poor visibility over this region leads to financial burden and loss of human lives.
  • Further, not only this study emphasises plastic burning emits toxic substances in the atmosphere impacting human health but also these emissions are for the first time linked to visibility and climate.
  • The study identifies waste burning as a major pollutant source, which is responsible for emissions of aerosol precursors as well as other toxic substances such as chlorinated dioxins and other persistent pollutants that affect human health.
  • The study also emphasised need to improve the policies related to air pollution, solid waste management including e-waste, and food safety to systematically address the environmental issues

Family Planning 2020:

  • Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare digitally addressed a high-level virtual event titled “Family Planning 2020: Celebrating Progress, Transforming for the future”, through Video Conference. The purpose of this event was to celebrate the FP-2020 partnership, the release of the Annual Progress Report for 2019-2020, and kick off the commitment process for the next phase of the partnership.
  • The partnership has played a fundamental role in facilitating exchange of knowledge among member states about latest contraceptives as well as best practices being followed to accelerate adoption of family planning services by the general population.
  • Importance of the FP partnership in helping India fulfil its objectives in Family Planning.
  • India achieved its Family Planning 2020 goal for improving contraceptive access in the country with adoption of modern contraceptive use having reached an estimated 55%; the country surpassed its commitment of investing more than 3 billion US Dollars by 2020 for strengthening Family Planning services; the basket of contraceptives has been greatly enhanced with the addition of injectables and the drug ‘Centchroman’ with around 4 million doses of Injectable contraceptive having been administered  cumulatively till now; more than 10 million pregnant women are also benefitting from Post-partum Intra-uterine contraceptive device.
  • Improving the quality of contraceptives, augmenting contraceptive demand through comprehensive IEC campaigns, and focused interventions in high fertility districts through Mission Parivar Vikas, have been few of the country’s notable achievements. As a result, we have witnessed an impressive decline in fertility and maternal mortality in the last few years.