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APRIL

04

2019

    ENVIRONMENT & ECOLOGY

    State Of Global Air 2019

    News: In India, air pollution is the third-highest cause of death among all health risks: report.
    Source: The Hindu

    Published by Health Effects Institute (HEI)

    HEI is a nonprofit corporation chartered in 1980 as an independent research organization to provide high-quality, impartial, and relevant science on the health effects of air pollution. HEI typically receives balanced funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the worldwide motor vehicle industry. Other public and private organizations periodically support special projects or certain research programs.

    Bleaching Hits World’s Southernmost Coral Reef

    News: Bleaching hits world’s southernmost coral reef.
    Source: The Hindu

    The world’s southernmost coral reef has been hit by bleaching this summer, Australian scientists said on Wednesday, as they warned rising sea temperatures from climate change were affecting even the most isolated ecosystems.

    The corals off Lord Howe Island — some 600 km offshore from Sydney — were affected by elevated temperatures this summer, despite escaping severe bleaching that damaged the Great Barrier Reef in 2016 and 2017.

    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found severe bleaching of up to 90% at Lord Howe’s inshore, shallow lagoon reefs. Deeper-water corals in the marine park, which contains species not found anywhere else and like the Barrier Reef is a World Heritage site.

    Increasing baseline temperatures caused by climate change, and local factors such as elevated temperatures in the area this summer, caused the bleaching to occur. The scientists are set to return to Lord Howe in the next few months to find out if some corals have been so severely bleached they can’t recover.

    Bleaching occurs when abnormal environmental conditions, such as warmer sea temperatures, cause corals to expel tiny photosynthetic algae, draining them of their colour.

    SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

    Black Holes

    News: Study shows tiny black holes may not account for dark matter as stated by Stephen Hawking.
    Source: The Hindu

    In the solar system, Mercury, the planet closest to the Sun, takes just 88 days to make one revolution around the sun, while Neptune, the farthest one, takes 165 years to make one round. In like manner, laws of gravity expect us to see stars closer to the centre of galaxies rotating faster than the stars on the edge.

    However, in most galaxies, the stars closer to the centre and the stars at the edge of the galaxies take almost same time to make one revolution. This implied that something invisible and enveloping the galaxies was giving an extra push to the outer stars, speeding them up. This entity has remained as one of the central unresolved puzzles in cosmology since 1930s. It is, no wonder, named `Dark Matter’.

    The material is considered to be a ‘matter’ since it appears to have gravitational attraction and it is ‘dark’ because it does not seem to interact with light (or for that matter any part of the electromagnetic spectrum). Detailed surveys of the cosmos indicate that almost 85% of the total mass of the Universe is composed of dark matter. Thus, stars, galaxies, and atoms that we see all around are just the tip of the iceberg and the elusive dark matter makes up the bulk of the Universe.

    Primordial Black Holes

    Cosmologists have come up with various hypothesis and theories to explain the dark matter. Some postulate it to be composed of neutrinos, which are particles that have no charge but have tiny mass and, therefore, do not have interact with electromagnetic spectrum, but are gravitationally interacting. Some others have postulated they may be some new kind of elementary particles - `weakly-interacting massive particles (WIMPs)’, or `gravitationally-interacting massive particles’ (GIMPs), which are yet to be detected.

    When the big bang hypothesis was proposed, two Soviet physicists, YakovBorisovichZel'dovich and Igor DmitriyevichNovikov, showed that at the initial instant of the big bang, the densities would have been very high at many points, resulting in the formation of small black holes. They were named `primordial black holes’. Stephen Hawking investigated them in 1971. He computed that the mass of the primordial black holes could range from as low as one-hundredth of a milligram to as high as more than the mass of thousand Suns.

    Gravitational Lensing

    Black holes are not radiant and will not be visible through any telescope. However, as first suggested by Albert Einstein, if by chance, a tiny primordial black hole eclipses a distant star, light rays of the star will bend around the black hole due to gravitational effect, resulting in the star appearing to be brighter than it originally is for a short while. Called `gravitational lensing’, this rare phenomena can occur only when the star, the black hole and the observer on the Earth are aligned in a straight line.

    When the black hole is in alignment with a distant star, due to gravitational attraction, light rays are bent inwards like a lens, making the star appear brighter.

    The research team, which was led by Masahiro Takada, Hiroko Niikura and Naoki Yasuda from Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe used the Hyper Suprime-Cam on the Japanese Subaru Telescope located in Hawaii to look for any tell-tale evidence of primordial black holes between Earth and Andromeda galaxy using gravitational lensing technique.