What is 2020 CD3, a mini-moon?
For Prelims: 2020 CD3.
For Mains: Achievements of Indians in Science & Technology; Indigenization of Technology and Developing New Technology.
Context of News:
- The Minor Planet Centre has announced recently that our planet has been orbited by a second moon for the past three years or so. Designated 2020 CD3, the object is extremely faint and small (1-6 m across) and won’t be with us for much longer.
- Earth has acquired a second “mini-moon” about the size of a car, according to astronomers who spotted the object circling our planet. The mass — roughly 6-11 feet in diameter was observed by researchers at the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona on the night of February 15.
About 2020 CD3:
- 2020 CD3 is a tiny member of a class of asteroids whose orbits cross the Earth’s orbit.
- Occasionally, they come near or collide with the Earth, but in this case a collision would not have been a catastrophe for us because 2020 CD3 is so small that it would have broken up in the atmosphere before reaching the ground.
- Instead of colliding with our planet, however, the initial approach of 2020 CD3 towards the Earth meant that it was captured into orbit at a somewhat greater distance than our much larger, permanent moon.
- So-called ‘mini-moons’ like this one come and go, and 2020 CD3 is probably already on its final loop before breaking free.
- One study has suggested that at any one time, the Earth is likely to be accompanied by at least one temporary mini-moon greater than one meter in size that makes at least one loop around the Earth before escaping.
- None of these stays long, because gravitational tugs from our much larger permanent moon and the Sun make their orbits unstable.
- After being captured, they typically orbit the Earth for no more than a few years before breaking free to reclaim an independent orbit about the Sun.
Hard to predict Orbit:
- Once a mini-moon has been discovered, its orbit is impossible to predict exactly because bodies this small are pushed perceptibly by the Sun’s radiation, and we know too little about their sizes, shapes and reflectivity to calculate the resulting effect.
- A previous visitor designated 2006 RH120 made four orbital loops around the Earth between September 2006 and June 2007 before proceeding on its way.
- By now it will have traveled to the far side of the Sun, but will pass close to Earth again in 2028.
- Other claimed ‘moons’ of the Earth are asteroids whose orbital period about the Sun averages out at exactly one year.
- So while they appear to have a relationship with Earth, they are actually just orbiting the Sun in company with, but independently of, the Earth.
Solar system and relation with Discovery:
- If the discovery holds up, the object, named 2020 CD3 for now, would be the second mini-moon ever found.
- The solar system is full of primordial crumbs, most of which circle the sun in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Sometimes, Jupiter’s gravitational influence sends those space rocks careening toward the inner solar system, where some could threaten Earth. While they orbit near us, they don’t orbit us. That’s what makes 2020 CD3 so rare.
- These primordial crumbs are orbiting roughly the same space that we are, and some will get into the right spot where it can nudge into a ballet with us. And then it’s like any dance: you do a couple spins together, and go your separate ways, there’s something beautifully transient about it.
- In a perfect universe, our departing minimoon would fly off and become trapped by the moon’s gravity, creating an even rarer class of object: a moonmoon. Sadly, moonmoons remain only theoretical, and our possible new minimoon comes with some caveats of its own.
- While the object’s existence has since been confirmed by several other observatories, further analysis is required to say for certain that the object is an extraterrestrial rock and not a large shard of space junk. Hopefully, we’ll have an answer before April.
Denial of legal representation in sedition cases
For Prelims: Sedition Law.
For Mains: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.
Context of News:
- Recent accused of sedition cases , where represented as “anti-national” and denying them the right to legal representation, bar associations in Karnataka’s Hubli and Mysuru stand accused of disregarding due process.
What Rule says?
- Hubli Bar Association’s resolution of not representing sedition accused violates Rule 11 of the BCI Rules – the ‘bar-rank rule’ – which says that an advocate “is bound to accept any brief in the courts or tribunals or before any other authority in or before which he proposes to practice.”As long as the client is willing to pay the lawyer’s fees, the lawyer can’t refuse a brief.
- Resolution violated the Mohammed Rafi case, in which Justice Markandey Katju (for the Supreme Court) had said such resolutions are “null & void” & that “right minded lawyers should ignore & defy such resolutions if they want democracy & rule of law to be upheld in this country”.
- Hubli Bar Association was preventing lawyers from performing their duty as officers of the court, also part of the BCI Rules, as it was illegally curtailing the accused’s fundamental right to legal representation & their right to a fair trial.
About Sedition Law:
- Section 124 A states:
- “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.
- The expression “disaffection” includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity.
- Comments expressing disapprobation of the measures of the attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.
- Comments expressing disapprobation of the administrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.”
Why sedition Law should be scrapped?
- Draconian laws such as the Section 124-A only serve to give a legal veneer to the regime’s persecution of voices and movements against oppression by casting them as anti-national.
- Sedition leads to a sort of unauthorised self-censorship, for it produces a chilling effect on free speech.
- It suppresses what every citizen ought to do in a democracy — raise questions, debate, disagree and challenge the government’s decisions.
- Sedition systematically destroys the soul of Gandhi’s philosophy that is, right to dissent.
- Jawaharlal Nehru, in Parliament, clarified that the related penal provision of Section 124A was “highly objectionable and obnoxious and the sooner we get rid of it the better”.
Why Denial of Representation in sedition case is obstruction of Judiciary?
- Denial of Representation is denial of right to be heard:
- Under the rule of law, no citizen can be denied the right to consult and to be defended by a legal practitioner of her choice. The Standards of Professional Conduct and Etiquette bind a lawyer to accept “any brief in the Courts or Tribunals or before any other authorities in or before which he proposes to practise at a fee consistent with his standing at the Bar and the nature of the case.”
- An advocate has to justify the special circumstances for refusing a particular brief. “Every person, however wicked, depraved, vile, degenerate, perverted, loathsome, execrable, vicious or repulsive he may be regarded by society has a right to be defended in a court of law and correspondingly it is the duty of the lawyer to defend him.
- A strong message from the legal community including both courts and eminent practitioners is needed to ensure that such actions are not normalized.
- Fortunately, the Karnataka High Court has intervened to ensure that the rights of accused are protected. It has rightly summoned office-bearers of the Hubli Bar Association for passing resolutions defying their professional codes and flouting Supreme Court judgements.
- Criticism against the government policies and decisions within a reasonable limit that does not incite people to rebel is consistent with freedom of speech and expression. Currently, the section is slapped against any discording entity, without any fairness. It is this grey area, which needs to be corrected. Only when it amounts to an incitement to violence, such sections should be brought in.
Shift in geopolitics; India to attend signing of Taliban peace pact with US
For Mains: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
Context of News:
- In its first step towards engaging with the Taliban, India has decided to send its envoy to the signing of the peace pact between the US and Taliban in Doha in last week of February.
- This is the first time that an official representative will attend a ceremony where the Taliban representatives will be present. When Taliban was in power between 1996 and 2001, India did not recognise it diplomatically and officially.
India’s position on engagement with the Taliban till now:
- Though India has softened its position on engaging with the Taliban, it has always maintained that it has three red lines:
- Representation of all sections of Society:
- All initiatives and processes must include all sections of the Afghan society, including the legitimately elected government”. This is important as, in the past; the Afghan government has often been sidelined by international interlocutors when they engaged with the Taliban. This also means that there is acceptability in Delhi about talking to the Taliban since they represent a “section of the Afghan society”.
- Respecting the constitutional legacy and political mandate:
- Any process should respect the constitutional legacy and political mandate”. This means that the achievement of establishing democratic processes and human rights, including women’s rights, should be respected. Delhi will again monitor whether the “new Taliban” as many Western interlocutors claim will respect these achievements over the last two decades.
- Not providing space for terrorist organization flourish:
- Any process “should not lead to any ungoverned spaces where terrorist and their proxies can relocate”. This is crucial for India, as it points out the threat from terrorist groups including the Haqqani network, Al Qaeda and Islamic State, which must not be allowed to operate there. Also, Pakistan-based terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Jaish-e-Mohammed must not be allowed to relocate.
Reasons for this Geo political shift to bring India on table of Taliban Accord:
- A significant withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan may be imminent, reflecting the strategic incoherence of the Trump administration, which is earning notoriety for pursuing an isolationist and anti-interventionist foreign policy to appease its core political base’s is taking out its troop and they need a reliable partner in Afghanistan, so India comes in to the picture.
- India’s Afghanistan policy has two major objectives: first, to curtail Islamabad’s influence in Kabul and deny Pakistan’s state and non-state agents leverage to plot against Indian interests, and second, to gain access to vast energy markets in Central Asia. In order to achieve these objectives, India has been one of the staunchest supporters of a strong and “independent” government in Kabul since an Afghanistan that is indirectly controlled by Rawalpindi is detrimental to Indian strategic interests. To achieve this objective India also wants to create a channel of Discussion.
- Despite India’s extensive developmental role, India remains a peripheral player in Afghan political affairs. India’s recent critical stance at the United Nations for its failure to sanction new Taliban leaders and their helpers in the neighborhood may be ethically appropriate, but seems out of sync with emerging ground realities in Afghanistan. There are already growing voices in India who are now asking the government to engage with the Taliban more substantively. It remains to be seen how New Delhi will respond to Trump’s latest policy shifts.
- The decision to withdraw precipitously from Afghanistan is likely to have far-reaching consequences for India – an increase in Taliban’s influence in Afghanistan could negatively impact the security situation in the restive Kashmir valley. With the Islamic State currently on the back foot, the Taliban may well emerge as the ideological inspiration of resurgent insurgency in Kashmir. There is additional concern regarding the security of India’s consulates in Afghanistan. Can India afford to remain aloof in this unfolding scenario? Is the question that India should not miss and start a channel of discussion that may be fruitful in controlling Taliban to some extent in the future?
2020 is a leap year: What that means?
For Prelims: Leap Year.
For Mains: Important Geophysical Phenomena.
Context of News:
- February 29, a date that comes approximately once every four years. Approximately, not exactly, for there are exceptions to the leap year’s cycle of four years.
Why do we have Leap Years?
- Well, we know that a year is the length of time that it takes for the Earth to revolve once around the sun. In that span, the Earth fully rotates on its axis 365 times. Each rotation is 24 hours, i.e. one day. That’s all pretty straightforward, right? But here’s where it gets tricky. The Earth actually rotates slightly more than 365 times in the span of a year. Four years’ worth of extra rotation adds up to one extra full rotation, and thus one extra day.
- 2020 is a leap year, a 366-day-long year. Every four years, we add an extra day, February 29 to our calendars. These extra days called leap days help synchronize our human-created calendars with Earth’s orbit around the sun and the actual passing of the seasons. Why do we need them? Blame Earth’s orbit around the sun, which takes approximately 365.25 days. It’s that .25 that creates the need for a leap year every four years.
- During non-leap years, aka common years – like 2019 – the calendar doesn’t take into account the extra quarter of a day actually required by Earth to complete a single orbit around the sun. In essence, the calendar year, which is a human artifact, is faster than the actual solar year, or year as defined by our planet’s motion through space.
- So the Earth rotates exactly 365.25 times per year?
- Nope! That would make things too simple. The Earth actually rotates something like 365.24 times in the span of one year. An full extra day every four years is actually a little bit too much.
- The errors pile up:
- To be more precise than earlier, Earth completes one orbit in 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds. However, with three years of 365 days and one leap year of 366 days, the average length of a year in the Julian calendar was 365 days and 6 hours. This was longer, if ever slightly so, than 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds.
- In effect, the leap year formula was overcompensation. Leap years were introduced because the calendar year was short, but they ended up making the average calendar year longer than the solar year. The difference: a small matter of 11 minutes and 14 seconds.
Rules and exceptions:
- Leap years are always multiples of four i.e. 2016, 2020, 2024 but a year that is a multiple of four is not always a leap year. There are exceptions, such as 1900 and 2100, both multiples of four, yet neither a leap year.
- A year ending with 00 is obviously a multiple of four, but is usually not a leap year. These are the exceptions. But again, there are exceptions to such exceptions. For example, 2000 ended with 00 but remained a leap year. As a result, many people alive today except some who are very young are likely to spend their lifetimes without skipping a leap year. Our ancestors skipped a leap year in 1900, while our descendants will skip one in 2100.
Is that enough of a difference to affect the calendar?
- In the short term, no. But over a few decades, it becomes noticeable – that’s a one day difference every one hundred years. In the time since we’ve adopted the current Gregorian calendar in, we’d have an extra four days to add somewhere. After a few more centuries, our calendar would be out of alignment with the current seasons, and we’d be celebrating Thanksgiving in the summer and none of the pumpkins would be ripe and that would be chaos!
How does that get balanced out?
- Thankfully, the Gregorian calendar does have a built-in fix for this problem. Every 100 years, we don’t have a Leap Year. In the years 1800 and 1900, for instance, there was not a Feb. 29.
- Does that fix the problem?
- Again, not exactly. Though removing those Leap Years once a century helps, it still leaves you with one day every 400 years. And to address that hiccup, we do have a Leap Year if the century is divisible by 400. That explains why, if you remember, we did have a Leap Year in 2000. But when 2100 finally rolls in, we will not.
So the problem is finally and completely solved there, right?
- Of course not! This only means our calendar is off by one day every 8,000 years or so. But I think that’s awfully darn close. Plus, the Earth’s rotation is actually slowing by a minuscule amount, so in a few thousand years the whole thing will be off by another couple of seconds anyway.