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November 2020: Current Affairs Science & Technology - Notes | Study Science & Technology for UPSC CSE - UPSC

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Asteroid 16 Psyche

According to a new report conducted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), asteroid 16 Psyche, which orbits between Mars and Jupiter, may be entirely made of metal and is worth an estimated $10,000 quadrillion dollars.

Key Points

➤ About Asteroid 16 Psyche:

  • Asteroid 16 Psyche is located 370 million kilometres away from earth between Mars and Jupiter and has 140 miles. 
  • It was discovered in the year 1853 by the Italian astronomer Annibale de Gaspard and was named after the ancient Greek goddess of the soul, Psyche. 
  • Unlike most asteroids made up of rocks or ice, scientists believe that Psyche is a dense and largely metallic object thought to be the core of an earlier planet that failed formation. 
  • Psyche's shape is like a potato which takes about five earth years to complete one orbit of the sun but only a bit over 4 hours to rotate once on its axis.

➤ Latest Findings:

  1. The latest study through the Hubble Space Telescope and ultraviolet observation gives a clearer picture of Psyche's composition.
    • The Hubble Space Telescope was launched into low Earth orbit in 1990 and remains in operation. 
  2. It was found that Psyche could be a unique asteroid composed of iron and nickel almost wholly which is similar to earth's core. The iron alone would be worth more than 10,000 quadrillion US dollars. 
    • Scientists noted that how Psyche reflected ultraviolet light was very similar to how iron reflects sunlight.

NASA's Psyche Mission:

  • The primary target of the Psyche mission to be launched in 2022 by NASA is to study this asteroid entirely and confirm the assumptions being made by the scientists.
  • Psyche mission will be the first mission to investigate this metallic asteroid. Psyche spacecraft will land on the asteroid in early 2026. 
  • As the composition of Psyche is very similar to earth's core, its study will also give an insight into earth's violent history of collisions and accretion that created it.

Metro Neo

The centre plans to approve national standard specifications for Metro Neo, a no-frills, low-cost urban rail transit system targeted at tier 2 and tier 3 cities.

Key Points

  1. Metro Neo is a rapid mass transit system providing low-cost, energy-efficient and eco-friendly urban transport solutions for tier 2 and tier 3 cities.
  2. Drawing traction power from overhead wires, Metro Neo will not run on track but on the road. It is suitable for places where the traffic demand is around 8,000 passengers one way in peak time.
  3. Metro Neo systems are lighter and smaller than conventional Metro trains.
  4. They cost about 25% of conventional systems but with similar facilities, and are cheaper than the other budget option Metrolite, which costs about 40% of the average Metro.
  5. The Maharashtra government has already given a green signal for this state-of-the-art Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) for Nashik.

Metro Trains and Metrolite:

  1. The metro rail system being developed at present is of high capacity which is required for bigger cities with very high ridership and Peak Hour Peak Direction Traffic (PHPDT).
  2. Seeing the success of metro rail in the country, several other cities with a lower projection of ridership are also aspiring for a rail-based mass rapid transit system, which could be fulfilled by Light Urban Rail Transit System named "Metrolite" with lesser capacity at much less cost.
  3. 'Metrolite' would also act as a feeder system to high capacity Metro.
  4. Other New Modes of Urban Mobility

Hyperloop Transportation System:

  1. It is a transportation system where a pod-like vehicle is propelled through a near-vacuum tube connecting cities at speeds matching that of an aircraft. 
  2. The hyperloop concept is a brainchild of Tesla founder Elon Musk. The hyperloop system is being designed to transport passengers and freight.
  3. The USA-based Hyperloop Transport Technology (HTT) has claimed that it costs USD 40 million per kilometre to build a hyperloop system while building a high-speed train line would cost almost twice.
  4. The Maharashtra government had signed an agreement with the Virgin Group to build a Hyperloop in 2018.

Pod Taxi:

  • In 2017, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) called the expression of interest (EOI) to launch India's first driverless pod taxi systems on a 70 km stretch from Dhaula Kuan in Delhi to Manesar in Haryana. Pod Taxi Scheme is also called the Personal Rapid Transit (PRT). 
  • PRT consists of driverless vehicles in the shape of pods, which can hold two to six people each, and run along a predetermined course at 80-130 km per hour.

Thirty Meter Telescope Project

The design of back-end instruments and other aspects of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project being installed at Maunakea in Hawaii has been developed by close collaboration between the 2020 Physics Nobel Laureate Prof. Andrea Ghez and Indian astronomers.

Key Points

  • The Thirty-meter telescope (TMT) project is an international partnership between the USA, Canada, Japan, China, and India.
  • It will allow deeper exploration into space and observe cosmic objects with unprecedented sensitivity.

➤ Other Global Projects with Indian Collaboration:

  1. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) Project
  2. The Indian scientists contributed to designing algorithms for analysis of signals from gravitational waves, estimating energy and power radiated from black holes, etc.
  3. Now LIGO-India is a planned advanced gravitational-wave observatory to be located in India as part of the worldwide network.

CERN Project

  • India became a full Associate Member of the world's largest particle Physics laboratory CERN in 2017, thereby getting full access to data generated there.
  • The contribution of Indian scientists is mainly in building the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and constructing two significant CERN experiments, CMS and ALICE.

Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research (FAIR)

  • FAIR is coming up at Darmstadt, Germany for studying the building blocks of matter and the evolution of the Universe.
  • FAIR is a sophisticated accelerator complex that will use the high energy and ion beams to mimic the condition inside the core of the stars and the early phase of the universe.
  • The role of Indian scientists would be to build NuSTAR (Nuclear Structure, Astrophysics and Reactions), CBM (Compressed Baryonic Matter) and PANDA (Antiproton Annihilation at Darmstadt).

Square Kilometre Array (SKA)

  • India has joined nine other countries to build the world's largest and most sophisticated radio telescope called Square Kilometre Array (SKA).
  • The core of the telescope will be based in the Karoo desert in South Africa. Since the receiver dishes' total detection area would exceed 1 square kilometre, it is called the Square Kilometre Array.

➤ International-Thermonuclear-Experimental- Reactor (ITER)

  • The International-Thermonuclear-Experimental: Reactor (ITER) is focused on creating an environment mimicking the Sun in laboratory conditions using nuclear fusion.
  • India's scientists and institutions such as Institute for Plasma Research, Ahmedabad are playing an important role in this.

Chapare Virus

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently discovered a rare Ebola-like illness thought to have arisen in West Africa in rural Bolivia in 2004.

  • The virus is named Chapare after the province in which it was first observed.
  • Chapare is a rural province in central Bolivia's northern region.

Key Points


  • Chapare Virus belongs to the same Arenavirus family that is responsible for illnesses such as the Ebola virus disease (EVD). It causes Chapare Hemorrhagic Fever (CHHF).


  • Chapare virus is generally carried by rats and can be transmitted through direct contact with he infected rodent, its urine and droppings, or through contact with an infected person.
  • A disease vector is any agent which carries and transmits an infectious pathogen into another living organism.

Symptoms of Chapare Hemorrhagic Fever (CHHF):

  1. Hemorrhagic fever much like Ebola.
    • Viral hemorrhagic fevers are a severe and life-threatening kind of illness that can affect multiple organs and damage the walls of blood vessels.
  2.  Abdominal pain, vomiting, bleeding gums, skin rash, pain behind the eyes, etc.


  1. Virus can spread from person to person.
  2. Chapare spreads only through direct contact with bodily fluids.
  3. Sexually transmission:
    • Researchers also found fragments of Ribonucleic acid (RNA) associated with Chapare, in the semen of one survivor 168 days after he was infected.

➤ Diagnosis:

  • Chapare virus is much more difficult to catch than the coronavirus as it is not transmissible via the respiratory route. Instead, Chapare spreads only through direct contact with bodily fluids. 
  • New sequencing tools will help develop an RT- PCR test — much like the one used to diagnose Covid-19 to help detect Chapare.

➤ Treatment:

  1. Since there are no specific drugs to treat the disease, patients generally receive supportive care such as intravenous fluids.
    • Intravenous therapy is a medical technique that delivers a liquid directly into a person's vein. The administration's intravenous route is commonly used for rehydration solutions or to provide nutrition to those who cannot consume food or water by mouth.
  2. Maintenance of hydration. 
  3. Management of shock through fluid resuscitation.
  4. Fluid resuscitation is the medical practice of replenishing bodily fluid lost through sweating, bleeding, fluid shifts or other pathologic processes. 
  5. Pain Relief Medicines.
  6. Transfusions as the supportive therapy that can be administered on patients.

People at risk: 

The disease is also known to be most commonly transmitted in more tropical regions, particularly in certain parts of South America where the small­eared pygmy rice rat is commonly found.

Mortality Rate:

  • As there are very few cases on record, the mortality and risk factors associated with the illness are relatively unknown.
  • In the first known outbreak, the only confirmed case was fatal. In the second outbreak in 2019, three out of five documented cases were fatal (case-fatality rate of 60%).

Recent Outbreak: Ebola Virus Disease

Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) or Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever (EHF), is a viral hemorrhagic fever of humans and other primates caused by ebolaviruses.


  • Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are natural Ebola virus hosts.

 Animal to human transmission:

  • Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals such as fruit bats, chimpanzees, etc.

Human-to-human transmission:

  • Ebola spreads via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with:
  • Blood or body fluids of a sick person with or has died from Ebola.
  • Objects that have been contaminated with body fluids (like blood, faeces, vomit) from a person sick with Ebola or the body of a person who died from Ebola.


  • An experimental Ebola vaccine, called rVSV- ZEBOV proved highly protective against EVD.
  • The recent biggest outbreak of the 'Chapare virus' was reported in 2019, when three healthcare workers contracted the illness from two patients in the Bolivian capital of La Paz.

Guillain Barre Syndrome

Some patients infected with Covid-19 have been found suffering from Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS).

Key Points

Guillain Barre Syndrome:

  • It is a sporadic autoimmune disorder in which the patient's immune system attacks nerves. 
  • The exact cause of Guillain-Barre syndrome is unknown, but as per the World Health Organisation (WHO), GBS is often preceded by an infection. This could be a bacterial or viral infection. It may also be triggered by vaccine administration or surgery. 
  • In the past, patients of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), Zika virus, Human Immunodeficiency Virus(HIV), Herpes virus and Campylobacter jejuni have shown symptoms of GBS.

Link with Covid-19:

  • The immune system, in an attempt to kill the coronavirus, accidentally starts attacking its own peripheral nervous system. 
  • The peripheral nervous system is a network of nerves that lead from the brain and spinal cord (i.e. central nervous system) to different parts of the body. Attacking them can affect limb functions. 
  • An interval of 5-10 days is noticed between the onset of GBS symptoms and Covid-19 infection, but some doctors say it can also take weeks after Covid-19 infection for a person to develop GBS.


  • Weakness or tingling sensations, which usually start in the legs, and can spread to the arms and face.
  • Difficulty with facial movements, including speaking, chewing or swallowing.
  • Double vision, rapid heart rate, low or high blood pressure.


There could be respiratory failure as the worst outcome or weakness and effect on walking and limb movement.

➤ Treatment:

  • Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG).
  • Plasma therapy.

Campylobacter jejuni

Campylobacteriosis is an infection by the Campy­lobacter bacteria. It is more commonly known as C. jejuni. It is among the most common bacterial infections of humans, often a foodborne illness. It produces bloody diarrhoea or dysentery syndrome, mostly including cramps, fever and pain.

Herpes Virus

Herpes results from infection with the herpes simplex virus (HSV). It causes sores or blisters to form in or around the mouth or genitals and other symptoms such as fever and fatigue.

IRNSS: Part of World Wide Radio Navigation System

The Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has recognised the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) as a component of the World Wide Radio Navigation System (WWRNS) during its 102nd session held virtually.

The IMO is the United Nations specialised agency responsible for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine and atmospheric pollution by ships.

Key Points

  • India has become the fourth country globally to have its independent regional navigation satellite system recognised by the IMO as a part of the World Wide Radio Navigation System (WWRNS).
  • The other three countries with navigation systems recognised by the IMO are the USA, Russia and China.


  1. The IMO has accepted IRNSS as an alternative navigation module in Indian waters. It was in use only on a pilot basis earlier but now all merchant’s vessels are authorised to use it, even small fishing vessels.
  2. The navigation system can now replace GPS in the Indian Ocean waters up to 1500 km from the Indian boundary.
    • IRNSS is a regional and not a global navigation system.
    • With the recognition as a component of the WWRNS, the Indian navigation system is similarly placed as Global Positioning System (GPS - USA), most commonly used by marine shipping vessels worldwide or the Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS).
  3. It is being considered as a significant achievement towards the 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' initiative.
    • Apart from navigational benefits, it has strategic importance as it reduces overdependence on the global navigation system.

Important Navigation Systems:

  • USA navigation system: The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite-based navigation system that consists of 24 orbiting satellites. 
  • Glonass is a Russian Satellite Navigation System considered a counterpart to the USA's GPS. 
  • BeiDou Navigation Satellite System of China: A hybrid constellation consisting of around 30 satellites in three kinds of orbits. 

Galileo is Europe's Global Navigation Satellite System.

Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System

  1. IRNSS is an independent regional navigation satellite system developed by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
  2. The main objective is to provide reliable position, navigation and timing services over India and its neighbourhood.
  3. The IRNSS constellation was named "NavIC" (Navigation with Indian Constellation) by the Prime Minister.
  4. NavIC provides two types of services:
    • Standard Positioning Service (SPS) is meant for the general public.
    • Restricted Service (RS) is an encrypted service meant for authorised users and agencies.
  5. Unlike the widely used GPS which includes 24 satellites, NavIC has 8 satellites and their range is within India and its adjoining regions extending up to 1,500 km from the country's border.
  6. Technically satellite systems with more satellites provide more accurate positioning information. However, compared to GPS which has a position accuracy of 20-30 metres, the NavIC is able to pinpoint location to an estimated accuracy of under 20 metres.
The document November 2020: Current Affairs Science & Technology - Notes | Study Science & Technology for UPSC CSE - UPSC is a part of the UPSC Course Science & Technology for UPSC CSE.
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