Fast spinning star confirms Indian Nobel Laureate’s theory

Over 70 years after Indian astrophysicist and Nobel laureate Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar predicted that rapidly rotating stars would emit polarised light, scientists in Australia have observed the phenomenon for the first time.

Researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia and University College London in the UK used a highly sensitive piece of equipment to detect the polarised light from Regulus, one of the brightest stars in the night sky.

The equipment provided unprecedented insights into the star, which is in the constellation Leo, allowing the scientists to determine its rate of spinning and the orientation in space of the star’s spin axis.

In 1946, Chandrasekhar had predicted the emission of polarised light from the edges of stars, prompting the development of sensitive instruments called stellar polarimeters to try to detect this effect.

Optical polarisation is a measure of the orientation of the oscillations of a light beam to its direction of travel.

In 1968, other researchers built on Chandrasekhar’s work to predict that the distorted, or squashed, shape of a rapidly rotating star would lead to the emission of polarised light, but its detection has eluded astronomers until now.

Yet the information is crucial for understanding the life cycles of most of the hottest and largest stars in the galaxies, which are the ones that produce the heaviest elements, such as iron and nickel, in interstellar space.

Regulus is about 79 light years away. During the total solar eclipse in the US in August, Regulus was just one degree away from the Sun and was, to many people, the only star visible during the eclipse.

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Joint Project between NASA and ISRO

ISRO and NASA are working towards realisation of NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission by 2021.

In NISAR mission, NASA is responsible for development of L-band SAR and ISRO is responsible for development of S-band SAR. The L & S band SAR will be integrated with ISRO’s spacecraft and launched on-board India’s GSLV. The total cost of the project includes ISRO’s work share cost of about Rs. 788.00 Cr and the cost of JPL’s work share of about USD 808 million.
After the launch in 2021, the plan of action includes (i) calibration of instruments & validation of data products; (ii) development of science acquisition plan; (iii) development of data processing procedures & applications; and (iv) conduct of outreach activities in research institutes & academia.

ISRO and NASA have a framework agreement for cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes signed in 2008. Under this framework agreement, ISRO and NASA have executed an implementing arrangement for cooperation in NISAR mission, which is valid until 2034 and provides scope for joint activities on science & applications of NISAR data after the launch.

About NISAR:

The Nasa-Isro Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission is a joint project between NASA and ISRO to co-develop and launch a dual frequency synthetic aperture radar satellite.

The satellite will be the first radar imaging satellite to use dual frequency and it is planned to be used for remote sensing to observe and understand natural processes of the Earth.

NISAR would provide information about a place more frequently than older satellites orbiting the Earth at present. Among the objectives of NISAR are estimation of soil moisture, agriculture and forest biomass.

It is also designed to observe and take measurements of some of the planet’s most complex processes, including ecosystem disturbances, ice-sheet collapse, and natural hazards such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes and landslides.

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First Environmental Research Satellite

Israel has successfully launched its first spatial environmental research vehicle designed for orbital monitoring of Earth’s vegetation
The Venus satellite (Vegetation and Environment Monitoring New Micro-Satellite) is an earth-observation micro-satellite designed jointly by Israel’s agency and France’s National Centre for Space Studies (CNES)

Venus has a dual mission: one scientific and the other technological. The scientific mission will monitor Earth’s vegetation using a camera capable of recording 12 narrow spectral bands.

The technological mission will test the operation of an innovative electric propulsion system based on the Israeli-designed Hall Effect Thrusters.
The satellite will be operated from four ground facilities located in Tel Aviv and Haifa in Israel, as well as from Toulouse in France and Kiruna in Sweden.

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World’s smallest satellite

The smallest satellite ever launched is successfully travelling in low Earth orbit and communicating with systems on Earth. Known as ‘Sprites’, the miniature satellites are just 3.5cm x 3.5cm and carry radios, sensors and computers, with each device powered by sunlight and weighing just four grams.

While nanosatellites known as CubeSats have previously been sent into space, such systems have a mass thousands of times that of the Sprites, weighing more than 1kg.

Scientists say the latest development is an important precursor to an ambitious attempt to send space probes to planets beyond our solar system, dubbed Breakthrough Starshot.

Breakthrough Starshot’s goal is to develop chips with a weight of roughly one gram and fit them to a lightweight sail before propelling them through space with a 100-billion watt laser.

Sprites have previously been carried on board the International Space Station, but this is the first demonstration that it is possible to launch such a lightweight satellite.

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