Science Snippets

Aditya Inserted in Halo Orbit

After a complex journey of about four months, Aditya-L1, India's first solar observatory, was successfully placed in a Halo orbit around Lagrangian Point L1 on 6 January 2024 with an orbital period of about 177.86 Earth days.

The orbit is located 1.5 million km from earth. The mission lifetime of Aditya-L1 will be five years.

Aditya L1 was successfully launched by ISRO on 2 September 2023, and began its 125-day journey to the Lagrange Point 1 (L1) of the Sun-earth system about 1.5 million km from the Earth, which is about 1% of the Earth-Sun distance.

L1 is a location in space where the gravitational forces of two celestial bodies, such as the Sun and Earth, are in equilibrium. This will allow the observatory to remain relatively stable and to continuously and uninterruptedly view the Sun.

Aditya is expected to provide useful information for understanding the problem of coronal heating, coronal mass ejection, pre-flare and flare activities and their characteristics, dynamics of space weather and propagation of particle and fields.

Source: Halo-Orbit Insertion of Aditya-L1 Successfully Accomplished

Chandrayaan-3 Lands Softly on Moon

ISRO achieved a flawless soft landing of the Chandrayaan-3's lander module on the lunar surface on August 23. India became the fourth country to achieve a soft landing on the moon and the first country to land near the south pole of the moon.

The powered descent of the lander was made up of four phases: the rough braking phase, the altitude hold phase, the fine braking phase, and the local navigation phase. During these phases, the lander's velocity and altitude gradually reduced till it landed softly and gently on the moon's surface.

The Chandrayaan-3 mission was launched on July 14. The objective of Chandrayaan-3 is to explore the lunar surface with the help of a rover. Chandrayaan-3 has four scientific payloads for studying the lunar quakes, thermal properties of the lunar surface, and the plasma environment near the moon's surface, and to enable scientists to accurately measure the distance between the Earth and the moon. The rover has two instruments to help to study the composition of the moon's surface. The mission life of the lander and the rover is one lunar day, which is 14 Earth days.

Incredible Life: Asleep for 46,000 Years!

A team of researchers found two "sleeping" soil nematodes (roundworms) in the Siberian Permafrost (perennially frozen sediments) in 2018 and "awakened" them after thawing the worms in a lab. A radiocarbon dating revealed that the worms had gone to "sleep" about 46,000 years ago!

Anastasia Shatilovich at the Institute of Physicochemical and Biological Problems in Soil Science RAS in Russia revived the nematodes found from a fossilized burrow in silt deposits in the Siberian permafrost, 40 metres below the surface.

The research team's findings have been published in the journal PLOS Genetics.

The worms belonged to a previously undescribed species. The researchers named it Panagrolaimus kolymaensis after the Kolyma River — the region from where the nematodes were found.

The species was parthenogenetic, and was cultivated in the laboratory for over 100 generations.

In their introduction to the study, the researchers have mentioned that organisms from diverse taxonomic groups can survive extreme environmental conditions by entering into a state of suspended animation or cryptobiosis.

Source: A novel nematode species from the Siberian permafrost... and Nematode from the ice age

Fatherless Birth

An 18-year-old female American crocodile, maintained in isolation all its life at a reptile park in Costa Rica, laid a clutch of eggs in its enclosure, and researchers found one egg to contain a fully formed stillborn fetus. The crocodile had self-produced without the involvement of a male crocodile.

The researchers have published their findings in the journal Biology Letters. The researchers discovered 14 eggs in the crocodile's enclosure in January 2018. Seven eggs appeared to be fertile and were artificially incubated. The eggs did not hatch, so the researchers opened them up. One egg was found to contain a fully formed stillborn fetus.

The scientists determined that the fetus was a female. Sex chromosomes are absent in crocodilians; the sex of the offspring depends upon the temperature. At temperatures below 30℃ and above 33℃, American crocodiles produce female offspring and give birth to males at temperatures around 31.5℃. In the present case, the seven eggs were incubated at 29-30℃.

The ability to produce offspring without the genetic contribution of males is termed facultative parthenogenesis; it is observed in a variety of shark, snake, and lizard species and in birds as well.

Source: Discovery of facultative parthenogenesis in a new world crocodile

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