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Environmental Minister of Japan Calls for Closing Down All Nuclear Reactors to Prevent Another Disaster Like Fukushima

Japan’s newly installed environment minister, Shinjiro Koizumi, wants the country to close down nuclear reactors to avoid a repeat of the Fukushima catastrophe in 2011.

The comments by the son of former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, himself an anti-nuclear advocate, are likely to prove controversial in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which supports a return to nuclear power under new safety rules imposed after Fukushima.

“I would like to study how we will scrap them, not how to retain them.”
—Shinjiro Koizumi, Japanese environmental minister

“I would like to study how we will scrap them, not how to retain them,” Shinjiro Koizumi said at his first news conference late on Wednesday after he was appointed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Japan’s newly appointed environment minister, Shinjiro Koizumi, held a news conference on Wednesday at his ministry in Tokyo. (Photo: KYODO)

Japan’s nuclear regulator is overseen by Koizumi’s ministry.

Three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi station run by Tokyo Electric Power melted down after being hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, spewing radiation that forced 160,000 people to flee, many never to return.

Let’s have a look on what happened in 2011.

The Great East Japan Earthquake of magnitude 9.0 at 2.46 pm on Friday 11 March 2011 did considerable damage in the region, and the large tsunami it created caused very much more.

Image on 16 March 2011 of the four damaged reactor buildings. From left to right: Unit 4, 3, 2, and 1. Hydrogen-air explosions occurred in Unit 1, 3, and 4, causing structural damage. A vent in Unit 2’s wall, with water vapor/”steam” clearly visible, prevented a similar large explosion. Drone overflights on 20 March captured clearer images.

The earthquake was centred 130 km offshore the city of Sendai in Miyagi prefecture on the eastern cost of Honshu Island (the main part of Japan), and was a rare and complex double quake giving a severe duration of about 3 minutes.

IAEA experts at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Unit 4, 2013

An area of the seafloor extending 650 km north-south moved typically 10-20 metres horizontally. Japan moved a few metres east and the local coastline subsided half a metre. The tsunami inundated about 560 sq km and resulted in a human death toll of about 19,000 and much damage to coastal ports and towns, with over a million buildings destroyed or partly collapsed.

Eleven reactors at four nuclear power plants in the region were operating at the time and all shut down automatically when the quake hit. Subsequent inspection showed no significant damage to any from the earthquake.

Fukushima I Nuclear Powerplant site close-up

The operating units which shut down were Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (Tepco) Fukushima Daiichi 1, 2, 3, and Fukushima Daini 1, 2, 3, 4, Tohoku’s Onagawa 1, 2, 3, and Japco’s Tokai, total 9377 MWe net. Fukushima Daiichi units 4, 5&6 were not operating at the time, but were affected. The main problem initially centred on Fukushima Daiichi units 1-3. Unit 4 became a problem on day five.

The reactors proved robust seismically, but vulnerable to the tsunami. Power, from grid or backup generators, was available to run the residual heat removal (RHR) system cooling pumps at eight of the eleven units, and despite some problems they achieved ‘cold shutdown’ within about four days. The other three, at Fukushima Daiichi, lost power at 3.42 pm, almost an hour after the quake, when the entire site was flooded by the 15-metre tsunami.

This disabled 12 of 13 back-up generators on site and also the heat exchangers for dumping reactor waste heat and decay heat to the sea. The three units lost the ability to maintain proper reactor cooling and water circulation functions. Electrical switchgear was also disabled. Thereafter, many weeks of focused work centred on restoring heat removal from the reactors and coping with overheated spent fuel ponds. This was undertaken by hundreds of Tepco employees as well as some contractors, supported by firefighting and military personnel.

Some of the Tepco staff had lost homes, and even families, in the tsunami, and were initially living in temporary accommodation under great difficulties and privation, with some personal risk.

A hardened emergency response centre on site was unable to be used in grappling with the situation, due to radioactive contamination.

Three Tepco employees at the Daiichi and Daini plants were killed directly by the earthquake and tsunami, but there have been no fatalities from the nuclear accident.

Among hundreds of aftershocks, an earthquake with magnitude 7.1, closer to Fukushima than the 11 March one, was experienced on 7 April, but without further damage to the plant. On 11 April a magnitude 7.1 earthquake and on 12 April a magnitude 6.3 earthquake, both with epicenter at Fukushima-Hamadori, caused no further problems.

In June 2016 Tilman Ruff, co-president of the political advocacy group, the “International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War” argues that 174,000 people have been unable to return to their homes and ecological diversity has decreased and malformations have been found in trees, birds, and mammals. Although physiological abnormalities have been reported within the vicinity of the accident zone, the scientific community has largely rejected any such findings of genetic or mutagenic damage caused by radiation, instead showing it can be attributed either to experimental error or other toxic effects.

Five years after the event, the Department of Agriculture from the University of Tokyo (which holds many experimental agricultural research fields around the affected area) has noted that “the fallout was found at the surface of anything exposed to air at the time of the accident. The main radioactive nuclides are now caesium-137 and caesium-134”, but these radioactive compounds have not dispersed much from the point where they landed at the time of the explosion, “which was very difficult to estimate from our understanding of the chemical behavior of cesium”.

In February 2018, Japan renewed the export of fish caught off Fukushima’s nearshore zone. According to prefecture officials, no seafood had been found with radiation levels exceeding Japan safety standards since April 2015. In 2018, Thailand was the first country to receive a shipment of fresh fish from Japan’s Fukushima prefecture. A group campaigning to help prevent global warming has demanded the Food and Drug Administration disclose the name of the importer of fish from Fukushima and of the Japanese restaurants in Bangkok serving it. Srisuwan Janya, chairman of the Stop Global Warming Association, said the FDA must protect the rights of consumers by ordering restaurants serving Fukushima fish to make that information available to their customers, so they could decide whether to eat it or not.

Japan towns, villages, and cities in and around the Daiichi nuclear plant exclusion zone. The 20 and 30 km (12 and 19 mi) areas had evacuation and shelter in place orders, and additional administrative districts that had an evacuation order are highlighted. However, the above map’s factual accuracy is called into question as only the southern portion of Kawamatadistrict had evacuation orders.

In July 2018, a robotic probe has found that radiation levels remain too high for humans to work inside one of the reactor buildings

Protest against nuclear power in Berlin, Germany, March 2011

Most of Japan’s nuclear reactors, which before Fukushima supplied about 30% of the country’s electricity, are going through a re-licensing process under new safety standards imposed after the disaster highlighted regulatory and operational failings.

Japan has six reactors operating at present, a fraction of the 54 units before Fukushima. About 40% of the pre-Fukushima fleet is being decommissioned.

Power Grid of Japan

Shinjiro Koizumi’s father, a popular prime minister now retired from parliament, became a harsh critic of atomic energy after the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

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9/11, How do the ideologies change the world

The horrific events of 9/11 continue to shape the world we live in, even after 18 years these memories haunts many families in America and around the world.

On September 11, 1893, Vivekananda delivered his famous speech at the parliament of religions. This was the original 9/11 in America that gave a message of peace and tolerance for the world.

Eighteen years ago on this day, nearly 3,000 people were killed and more than 6,000 injured in the 9/11 terror attacks that targeted one of the most secured cities in the most powerful country — the United States of America.

The image of 9/11 as a singular event in modern world history is such that it changed the narrative and approach of world powers towards terrorism.

From being relegated as local occurrences, terrorism became a global phenomenon in the post-9/11 analysis of security and terrorism. For the sake of nuance, ‘glocal’ (something that is affected both by local and global factors) became a more oft-used term in terrorism-related discourses.

One-hundred-and-eight years before 19 al Qaeda terrorists wreaked havoc in America, 9/11 denoted a message of tolerance, peace and tolerance.

The message was delivered by Vivekananda at the parliament of religions in Chicago in 1893 — on September 11. This was the original 9/11.

While it is not yet indisputably established why 9/11 terror attacks were carried out by al Qaeda, it definitely had the imprint of religious bigotry based on fundamentalism. In his Chicago speech, Vivekananda had warned of the dangers of fanaticism.

Universal Brotherhood Day is observed on 11 September around the world each year to commemorate the historic speech delivered by Indian thinker and spiritualist Swami Vivekananda on this day in 1893 in Chicago.

Vivekananda’s iconic speech was made in the audience of delegates from all over the world at the first ever World Parliament of Religions, held from 11 to 27 September 1893.

The speech is popularly remembered for its opening words, “Sisters and brothers of America, which was a departure from the conventional usage of more formal salutations, and for which he received a two-minutes-long standing ovation. In fact, Vivekananda’s address was most likely the first time a global audience was greeted by the use of a more filial term.

He discarded the idea of religious supremacy and propagated a message of not only mutual tolerance but also religious acceptance, while critically defining both and differentiating between the two as well.Speaking about Hinduism he said, “I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both, tolerance and universal acceptance.

We believe not only in universal tolerance but we accept all religions as true.”On the idea of tolerance, Vivekananda explained that it is the act of putting up with something that one disapproves of, while acceptance he said was admitting that even the seed of an idea can take root and produce an offshoot that was completely different and unique from the original ideology.

Swami Vivekananda’s speech is considered to be a turning point for the World Parliament of Religions, as it made the concept of tolerance and acceptance towards other religions more comprehensive and real.

The full speech of Swami Vivekananda as follows

Sisters and Brothers of America,

It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us. I thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world; I thank you in the name of the mother of religions; and I thank you in the name of the millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects.My thanks, also, to some of the speakers on this platform who, referring to the delegates from the Orient, have told you that these men from far-off nations may well claim the honour of bearing to different lands the idea of toleration.

I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance.We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth.

I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny.I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation.

I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings: ‘As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.

‘The present convention, which is one of the most august assemblies ever held, is in itself a vindication, a declaration to the world, of the wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita: ‘Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to Me.’Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth.

They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization, and sent whole nations to despair.Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now.

But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honour of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.”

On September 11, 2001, a group of al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four airliners.

Two planes – American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 75 – crashed into the North and South towers of the World Trade Centercomplex in New York City.

Another was flown into the Pentagon in Washington DC and the fourth crashed into a field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania after a struggle between the hijackers and passengers.

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is at the original World Trade Centre site.

The memorial features two huge, deep pools at the base of the old World Trade Centre towers.Around the edges of the pools, each almost an acre in size, the names of those who were killed in the attacks are embossed in bronze panels.

It includes the names of 2,996 people killed by al-Qaeda in New York, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.

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Depression and Suicide are REAL, Learn to deal with them

Today, September 10, is World Suicide Prevention Day—a day dedicated to raising awareness of the risks of suicide and the challenges faced when trying to prevent death by suicide.

According to the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), every year suicide is among the top 20 leading causes of death globally. It is responsible for over 800,000 deaths, which equates to one suicide every 40 seconds. In America, it was the 10th leading cause of death, with over 47,000 people dying by suicide in 2017, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).

IASP estimates that for every person that dies by suicide, 135 people suffer “intense grief or are otherwise affected.” This amounts to 108 million people per year. Further, the organization says that for every suicide, 25 people make a suicide attempt and many more have serious thoughts of suicide.

Last week, new statistics showed the male suicide rate rose in the UK for the first time since 2013 after 4,903 men killed themselves in 2018 at a rate of 17.2 per 100,000 of the population. It marks an increase of 521 suicides on 2017 – the biggest change in the suicide rate since 1998.

But despite making some grounds in helping to reduce the overall suicide rate, the headlines surrounding the subject continue.

Earlier this year, news that former ‘Love Island’ star Mike Thalassitis died at the age of 26 shocked the UK.

His death followed that of fellow contestant Sophie Gradon who was found dead at her parents’ home after a battle with anxiety and depression.

In June, last year, the fashion world mourned the tragic death of handbag designer Kate Spade, who reportedly took her life in her New York home.

Days later, news of the suicide of American TV chef, Anthony Bourdain, emerged.

The high profile deaths offer proof that the battle to help improve suicide rates is far from over.

The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) say: “Suicide is complex. It usually occurs gradually, progressing from suicidal thoughts, to planning, to attempting suicide and finally dying by suicide.”

It isn’t always easy to know whether you or someone close to you is feeling suicidal, and in some cases, there are no signs at all.

To help, and in a nod to World Suicide Prevention Day, the wellbeing experts at CABA offer their advice on spotting the signs that you or someone close to you might be experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Spotting the signs in yourself

According to the mental health charity Mind, many people think about suicide at some point in their lives. Here are some of the things you may think or feel:

  • Everything’s hopeless – what’s the point in living?
  • There’s nothing positive in your life, everything’s negative
  • Everyone would be better off without you
  • You’re useless, unwanted or unneeded by others
  • Your unbearable pain is never going to end
  • You’re physically numb – you feel cut off from your body
  • Taking your own life is your only option

Spotting the signs in others

Spotting when someone else is thinking about suicide can be difficult. But, if you notice any of your loved ones exhibiting the following signs, then it might be time to step in:

  • They talk about feelings of hopelessness
  • They have sudden episodes of rage and anger
  • They act recklessly and take part in risky activities with no concern for the consequences
  • They say they feel trapped, and that they can’t see their way out of their problems
  • They self-harm (this includes misusing drugs or alcohol)
  • They become increasingly withdrawn or appear anxious and agitated

Meanwhile, you may also experience things like sleeping problems (including waking too early), changes in your appetite and you may lose or gain weight.

Your self-esteem may also be very low, and you may try to avoid contact with other people, and feel no need to take care of yourself (including your physical appearance).

A famous German poet and novelist, Hermann Hesse experienced personal turmoil and conflict with his parents in the early age. As a result, at the age of 15 in 1892, he attempted suicide. However, he was saved. After a long struggle, he became a great writer and in 1946 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

This story is to remind everyone that life is a great gift and it should be cherished every day. The world is full of opportunities. If someone fails in doing something, he should take it as a temporary setback or an inordinate delay, and not as a final failure.

If life seems to be running out of track, find reasons for it and correct it. As it is said, ‘when one door closes, another opens.’ Instead of giving up and accepting the failure, one should continue the search for a possible solution. Eventually, one should open up to someone or the other. Sometimes, when our mind is too chaotic to find an answer, someone might find it rather easily.

Always remember, everyone is born with some purpose, and suicide is not on the list.

The Sky Tower will be lit yellow tonight as a mark of respect for families who have lost loved ones to suicide.

According to a release from SkyCity Auckland, the Sky Tower will shine yellow from sunset tonight until sunrise tomorrow morning.

The lighting is timed to mark World Suicide Prevention Day.

SkyCity often lights the Sky Tower for charities or community initiatives that the company supports financially, to mark national holidays, milestones or other celebrations or events, or as a symbol of respect or solidarity.

“Look at the trees, look at the birds, look at the clouds, look at the stars… and if you have eyes you will be able to see that the whole existence is joyful. Everything is simply happy. Trees are happy for no reason; they are not going to become prime ministers or presidents and they are not going to become rich and they will never have any bank balance. Look at the flowers – for no reason. It is simply unbelievable how happy flowers are.” — Osho

“Everybody goes through difficult times, but it is those who push through those difficult times who will eventually become successful in life. Don’t give up, because this too shall pass.” ― Jeanette Coron

Swami vivekananda was totally against superstitions or anything which makes you weak or fearful. his talks are full of courage and taking charge of your life.

according to him anything which makes you weak is evil and anything which makes you and your soul strong is good. the ultimate source of fearlessness is to realize your true nature or to be in touch with your inner voice or soul.

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Chandrayaan-2 ; India’s Journey to the South Polar region of the moon

The Rs 978-crore unmanned Chandrayaan-2 mission (satellite cost Rs 603 crore, GSLV MK III cost Rs 375 crore) is expected to shed light on a completely unexplored section of the Moon — its South Polar region.

Chandrayaan-2’s landing module ‘Vikram’ will begin its final descent to pull off a historic soft landing on the lunar surface in the early hours of Saturday, as the Indian Space Research Organisation awaits with bated breath for the “terrifying moment”.

A successful landing will make India the fourth country after Russia, the US and China to achieve a soft landing on the moon. But it will be the first to launch a mission to the unexplored lunar south pole.

Joined by about 60-70 high school students from across the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be present at the ISRO centre in Bengaluru to witness live the space feat, according to officials.

‘Vikram’ with rover ‘Pragyaan’ housed inside is scheduled for a powered-descent between 1 am and 2 am on September 7, followed by its touchdown between 1.30 am and 2.30 am. The lander is now in an orbit that would be about 35 km from the lunar surface at its nearest point from where it will begin its final descent.

ISRO has said Chandrayaan-2 will attempt to soft land the lander and rover in a high plain between two craters, Manzinus C and Simpelius N, at a latitude of about 70 south. ISRO Chairman K Sivan said the proposed soft landing on the Moon was going to be a “terrifying” moment as the ISRO has not done it before, where as Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI) manoeuvre was successfully carried out during the Chandrayaan-1 mission.

Explaining the landing manoeuvres, Sivan had said once the manoeuvre starts from about 30 km to land on the surface of the moon, it will take 15 minutes. “This 15 minutes travel of lander is new to ISRO. It is for the first time we are going to another body where there is no atmosphere and using the propulsion system we will have to break the velocity and bring the vehicle safely to soft land.

To achieve this we will have to balance between the gravity and thrust. So we have to modulate the thrust of the engine,” he had said. Following the landing, the rover ‘Pragyaan’ will roll out from ‘Vikram’ between 5.30 am and 6.30 am.

While, the ‘Pragyaan’ will carry out experiments on the lunar surface for a period of one lunar day, which is equal to 14 earth days, the main orbiter will continue its mission for a year. The lander and rover carry country’s symbols on them, which will remain on the moon for long.

“The rover has six wheels (three each on both sides), the back two wheels- one has Ashoka Chakra on it and the other has ISRO emblem. Also, the ramp of the lander on which rover will come out and land on moon has Indian flag on it,” Sivan had earlier said.

The Rs 978 crore unmanned moon mission (satellite cost Rs 603 crore, GSLV MK III cost Rs 375 crore) is expected to shed light on a completely unexplored section of the Moon — its South Polar region.

Pointing out that Chandrayaan 2 was going to South Pole, a place where nobody else has gone, ISRO Chairman K Sivan had said, the entire scientific community of the nation and the globe were eagerly waiting for the mission.

According to ISRO, the lunar South Pole is especially interesting because of the lunar surface area here that remains in shadow is much larger than that at the North Pole and there was a possibility of the presence of water in permanently shadowed areas around it.

In addition, South Pole region had craters that are “cold traps” and contain a fossil record of the early Solar System. India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, GSLV MkIII-M1 had successfully launched the 3,840-kg Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft into the earth’s orbit on July 22.

Chandrayaan-2 satellite began its journey towards the moon leaving the earth’s orbit in the dark hours on August 14, after a crucial manoeuvre called Trans Lunar Insertion (TLI) that was carried out by ISRO to place the spacecraft on “Lunar Transfer Trajectory”.

The spacecraft successfully entered the lunar orbit on August 20 by performing Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI) manoeuvre. On September 2, the lander ‘Vikram’ successfully separated from the orbiter, following which two de-orbiting manoeuvres were performed to bring the lander closer to the Moon.

The health of the spacecraft is being continuously monitored from the Mission Operations Complex (MOX) at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bengaluru with support from Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) antennas at Bylalu, near Bengaluru.

The orbiter carries eight scientific payloads for mapping the lunar surface and study the exosphere (outer atmosphere) of the Moon while the lander carries three scientific payloads to conduct surface and subsurface science experiments.

The rover carries two payloads to enhance the understanding of the lunar surface. The rover will be rowing on the moon on its own propulsion at the speed of one cm per second and will cover 500 metres in its lifetime.

According to ISRO, the mission objective of Chandrayaan-2 is to develop and demonstrate the key technologies for end-to-end lunar mission capability, including soft-landing and roving on the lunar surface.

On the science front, the mission aims to further expand the knowledge about the moon through a detailed study of its topography, mineralogy, surface chemical composition, thermo-physical characteristics and atmosphere, leading to a better understanding of the origin and evolution of the moon as reported by News 18.

Watch the live telecast here 👇

Chandrayaan 2 lunar landing: Isro loses contact with lander Vikram

Vikram, Chandrayaan 2’s lander, lost contact with Indian Space Research Organisation’s (Isro) mission control centre just a few minutes before it had to soft-land on the lunar surface. After that the scientists went into a huddle and Prime Minister Narendra Modi was informed by ISRO Chairman K Sivan about the loss of communication. Scenes of heightened tension among the scientists could be seen in the mission control. The data is still being analysed by them to conclude what happened to the lander.

The lander performed as planned by Isro up to a point when it was 2.1 kilometres (km) above the Moon’s surface. This was in the fine-breaking phase of the descent process, in which the craft had to be brought down from a height of 5 km to about 400 metres. Before this, the descent operation started from the height of around 30 km.

In the first rough-breaking phase, the orbit was brought down from 30 km to 7.4 km in about 10 minutes. The velocity of Vikram was also bought down from 1,680 m per second to 146 m/sec during this phase. In the next absolute navigation (altitude control) phase, the orbit was further reduced to 5 km from 7.4 km and the velocity slowed even more. When communication was lost Vikram was still travelling at around 50 m/sec.

Vikram had successfully detached from the orbiter on September 2. The next day, the lander reduced its orbit to 100 km x 30 km and then all the systems were self-checked onboard for the subsequent three days.

Years of hard work and planning by Isro scientists and Chandrayaan 2’s 48-day journey from Earth to Moon finally had come down to the last few ‘minutes of terror’ that Vikram was seemingly not able to overcome. With this India would have become only the fourth country to have successfully soft-landed a human-made object on another planet or natural satellite after the United States, Russia and China.

A soft-landing protects the object from impact while a hard landing doesn’t. Soft-landing ensures that the object is able to carry out further experimentation on the target planet or satellite, mostly with the help of a rover vehicle.

Soft-landing on any planetary surface is complicated. Vikram was to use five thrusters — four at the corners and one at the centre to make its final descent. Maintaining the required velocity with such thrusters is difficult as a fine balance among them needs to be maintained. Then there is the issue of moon dust which could wreck the engines of the thrusters.

At the moment, Isro scientists are non committal about the fate of Vikram. It could have landed successfully despite losing communication because the landing process was programmed into the lander itself without being micromanaged by ground control. Else it could have crash landed on the lunar surface. The final conclusion can be drawn only after careful analysis.

With Vikram’s landing India would have become the only country to have landed a craft near the south pole of the Moon. The spot where Vikram was to land was a highland that rises between two craters called Manzinus C and Simpelius N. It’s about 600 km from the Moon’s south pole. A couple of hours after the landing Isro’s six-legged rover Pragyan was to roll out onto the lunar surface and start its exploration for the next 14 lunar days or one Earth day. It was to conduct experiments on chemistry, mineralogy and exosphere, especially collecting more evidence for the existence of water.

Exploration of this part of the Moon was very crucial to understand the characteristics of the satellite planet in full as all the other missions have conducted experiments and returned samples from regions closer to the equator. This was mainly because it is pretty difficult to land at the poles. To land at the poles the orbit of the lander has to remain at a 90-degree angle to the lunar surface.

This is not required in the equatorial regions where soft landings have been attempted before. Even there only 37 percent of attempted landings have been successful till date. Every correction in the orbit of Vikram to land near the south pole came with a penalty of wasted fuel which cannot be then used for other processes. But the lander carried 60-70 kg extra fuel for such exigencies. This fuel efficiency challenge could have been the point where Vikram could have faltered.

For Isro, the journey to the Moon has not been without delays and close shaves. The Chandrayaan 2 project has been delayed multiple times in the past year. The original launch date was in March 2018 which was later pushed to April and then to October to conduct further tests on the launch vehicle.

Further deliberations by the fourth comprehensive technical review meeting concluded that the mission’s components needed changes, especially in configuration and landing sequence. This pushed the launch date to the first half of 2019. In February 2019, the lander craft named Vikram suffered damage in both its legs during a routine test. After this setback ISRO reworked its systems and finally fixed July 15 as the launch date.

But just 56 minutes before the engines had to fire up, ISRO called off its launch due to a technical snag. The snag turned out to be a leak in the helium tank of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk III M1 (GSLV Mk III M1). The entire process of identifying, analysing and fixing the leak took ISRO’s launch team only 24 hours after which they prepared for the launch, according to Sivan. The final launch took place on July 22 against a narrow window of only a few minutes.

Chandrayaan-2 orbiter healthy and safe in lunar orbit: ISRO official.

“Be courageous,” said the Prime Minister to the dejected scientistsafter ISRO chief K Sivan announced that contact with the lander had been lost at an altitude of 2.1 km from the moon’s surface. “What you have achieved is no mean achievement. Hope for the best. You have done a great service to the nation, science and humanity. Our journey will remain, I am with you, go ahead with courage.”

Rare are occasions when a nation awaits a moment as eagerly as this. On the ground, at the ISRO control centre, excitement and nervousness had mounted in the final countdown. Far away from the 24×7 TV noise, as messages started pouring in over social media praising the capabilities of ISRO, the Chandrayaan-2 mission control team was at work, quietly doing its job, oblivious to what was happening outside, focused on watching every signal coming from the spacecraft.

To decelerate after starting its descent, Vikram continuously fired its four thrusters in the direction of its movement. It travelled a total of almost 585 km in a parabolic path before losing contact. Before the touchdown, a few hundred kilometres from the ground, it was expected to hover over the surface, trying to ascertain whether there was a safe place to land.

As per ISRO official, Chandrayaan-2 orbiter healthy and safe in lunar orbit, hope we see much more success in coming years.

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Stolen Bronze, Dancing Shiva on his way back Home; India Celebrating Krishna Janmashtami with Returned Navaneetha Krishna Bronze

A 16th century bronze Nataraja idol, which was stolen from Kallidaikurichi temple, Tirunelveli, in 1982, is set to be repatriated soon. And on August 15 regained possession of a priceless bronze Navaneetha Krishna

In this regard, Australian authorities have met Indian officials and discussed the modalities for repatriation.

The Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) Foundation acquired the 75.7 cm bronze idol from Oliver Forge and Brendan Lynch Limited in 2001. After deaccession of the artwork recently, the AGSA said it followed standard protocols for its acquisition that were widely accepted as professionally rigorous in 2001.

Following the 2014-16 revision of the AGSA Due Diligence Policy, the curator, Asian Art, commenced provenance research on the dancing Siva idol although there had been no prior indication or reason to assume that the statue had been improperly acquired.

It is understood the bronze, bought in 2001 with $436,000 in donated funds and weighing 100 kilograms, was reported missing in July 1982.

In September 2016, during research in the French Institute of Pondicherry archives, the curator identified a 1958 photograph of the Nataraja paired with a statue of the consort goddess Sivakamisundari at the Sri Kulasekaramudayan Temple, Kallidaikurichi.

The statue was stolen from this Indian temple.

The next year, the curator travelled to Kallidaikurichi and met the temple priest who was able to identify the Nataraja idol as formerly being in the temple’s possession.

The Dancing Shiva is one of four statues believed to have been taken by thieves

Special officer of Idol Wing and former Inspector General of Police A.G. Ponn Manickavel sent a copy of the FIR report to AGSA with a formal request for the statue’s repatriation from the High Commission of India, Canberra.

The officials from both sides met in New Delhi and discussed the process for repatriation of the statue as soon as possible. The idol may be returned at the end of this month, said sources in the Idol Wing.

“It has been five years since we first raised questions on this bronze to the AGNSA and finally they are returning it to India. However India should take up with the original seller m/s Forge and Lynch of London to reveal the detailed provenance papers as there are still a number of bronzes stolen from the same temple that are still missing,” said S. Vijaya Kumar, art enthusiast and founder of India Pride, Reported by The Hindu.

The statue has been linked to a temple in the southern Indian city of Nellai, where a photograph shows it in place in 1958.

Close look at the old photo (Taken in indian Temple) Vs the current one By S. Vijay Kumar

The Dancing Shiva is the first antiquity India has claimed from 24 potentially problematic pieces identified by AGSA in 2014.

A national problem

The latest controversy comes in 2018 as the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) is in the middle of investigating more than 2,000 items in its Asian collection.

The 2016 Crennan Report found the NGA had done insufficient research before spending more than $10 million with the alleged antiquities trafficker and former New York dealer, Subhash Kapoor, who has been detained in India since 2011. His case has not yet been heard.

Three statues from Mr Kapoor, acquired for more than $6 million — plus one bought by the Art Gallery of NSW — have already been repatriated to India without compensation.

A $1 million Buddha the NGA bought from another dealer, Manhattan-based Nancy Wiener, has also been dispatched back to India.

Ms Wiener refunded the purchase price to the Canberra gallery. She was later charged for dealing in stolen goods by US police. Her case has not yet commenced.

After he built up AGSA’s Asian antiquity collection during his 13 years as director until 2004, Mr Radford oversaw many Indian antiquity purchases at the NGA while director from 2004 until 2014.

A London-based collector has returned artefacts bought from Subhash Kapoor.

On 15 August 2019, a limestone carved relief sculpture from Andhra Pradesh, dated between the first century BCE and the first century CE, and a Navaneetha Krishna bronze sculpture from 17th century Tamil Nadu were repatriated to the Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Ruchi Ghanashyam.

34 such artefacts have been returned in the past five years and over 200 promised to be returned to India. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abott personally returned a Chola Shiva Nataraja and German Chancellor Angela Merkel returned a 10th century Durga Mahisasuramardini, in acts of repatriation of objects of cultural importance.

With just a week to go for the festival of Krishna Janmashtami, India on August 15 regained possession of a priceless bronze Navaneetha Krishna, thanks to a rare instance of moral courage by an art collector from London.

After U.S. authorities charged Indian antiquities dealer Subhash Kapoor with possession of stolen property last June, the London-based connoisseur, who had bought a few artefacts from him, came forward to U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), expressing a desire to surrender the pieces. The artefacts were recovered in June this year.

On Thursday, authorities in the U.S. and U.K. formally handed over a lime stone relief, originally from Andhra Pradesh, and the bronze Krishna to the Indian High Commissioner in London. Kapoor is lodged in Tiruchi prison and faces criminal cases for illegally exporting idols and artefacts from temples in Tamil Nadu. He was also charged by U.S. HSI for operating a massive smuggling ring, allegedly run from his New York gallery.

Pursuant to an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with participation from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), the art collector whose name was withheld, returned the limestone carved relief and the bronze Navaneetha Krishna.

The two artefacts from India are linked to one of the most prolific art smugglers in the world, who was recently charged in Manhattan, New York. An individual in the United Kingdom who possessed the items came forward to HSI expressing a desire to surrender the pieces.

In June 2019, working with the MPS, the individual cooperated and turned over the artefacts to authorities.

A preliminary examination has dated the limestone relief to between the first Century BC to first Century AD. The Krishna bronze is estimated to be from 17th Century from Tamil Nadu. Both items will be subject to further examination by domain experts at a later date to establish their exact period and original location.

The repatriated antiques are just two of more than 2,600 antiquities that have been recovered around the world. The investigation remains ongoing, the Home Land Security Investigation said in a release.

Vijay Kumar’s investigations have contributed to the return of dozens of antiquities.

“The cultural significance of artefacts looted from around the world extends beyond a monetary value. The pieces, like those recovered through this operation, are stolen fragments of history; and it is an honour to return them to their rightful home country,” Peter C. Fitzhugh, of the HSI in New York, said.

S. Vijay Kumar, art enthusiast and founder of India Pride that tracks Indian antiques, said there is strong reason to believe that the relief could be from Buddhist Vaddamanu site near Guntur. “The theft from the Buddhist site in Andra Pradesh comes close on the heels of thefts from the Chandavaram site. Very little is known about Vaddamanu site and to see that robbers have targeted the freshly excavated sites is shocking,” he said, as reported by The Hindu.

Photo Credits to S. Vijay Kumar, a real life hero, Indian Media house The Hindu, ABC, and CNN.

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Starving 70-Year-Old Elephant Collapses From Exhaustion After Sri Lankan Festival

Tourists in Sri Lanka have been urged to boycott religious parades because of concerns over the mistreatment of elephants.

Remember Tikiri, the starving seventy year old elephant? Pictures of her emaciated body had gone viral on Facebook a few days ago.

A Facebook page dedicated to the conservation of elephants had posted a picture of Tikiri, along with a detailed caption which specified the level of torture she’d been exposed to.

Animal rights’ campaigners made the call after pictures emerged of emaciated Tikiiri, a 70-year-old female Asian elephant.

She was one of 60 animals made to march through the city of Kandy during the Esala Perahera, a ten-day Buddhist festival.

Her skeletal frame was hidden by a large costume. For ten days she works until late at night amid the noise, fireworks and smoke.

Campaigners said the exploitation of the elephant in Sri Lanka must stop.

“She walks many kilometres every night so that people will feel blessed during the ceremony,” said Lek Chailert, the founder of the Save Elephant Foundation, a Thai charity.

“No one sees her bony body or her weakened condition because of her costume.

“No one sees her difficulty to step as her legs are short-shackled while she walks.”

Chailert was backed by Elisa Allen, UK director of Peta, the animal welfare charity.

She said that the exploitation of elephants was common at tourist traps across Sri Lanka.

“Elephants don’t naturally obey human commands or allow humans to ride on their backs.

“They do so because mahouts [handlers] carry bullhooks — iron rods with a sharp hook — to dig into their flesh and other weapons that they learnt as babies to fear,” she said.

“Tourists can help elephants by refusing to ride them and by avoiding any attraction that offers elephant rides, keeps the animals chained or forces them to perform,” she added.

A spokesman for the Sacred Tooth Relic, the Buddhist temple that hosts the festival, said that Tikiiri had been seen by a vet.

The activist said elephant owners are ‘powerful people’ in Sri Lanka, but there is a growing movement trying to stop the animals being used in Perahera festivals.

In a statement, a temple spokesperson said Tikiri’s owner had ‘specifically requested’ her part in the festival as there is an ‘ancient belief’ that such religious offerings can cure weak animals.

They said: ‘It is an ancient belief that the performing of Pooja (Offerings) to gods by sick or weak elephants has healing powers.

‘Hence, given the digestive ailment of Tikiri, her owner specially requested the Diyawadana Nilame of the Vishnu Devala [chief of the temple] to allow Tikiri to take part in this year’s procession in hope of curing her.

‘Taking into account the great service performed by Tikiri to the Esala procession, the request was accepted in terms that she is proved to be fit to take the streets after a thorough examination.

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Ancient Buddhist cave found at Dhanamkonda hill, Andhra Pradesh

1st Century BCE Buddhist cave found at Dhanamkonda hill, Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh

A huge Buddhist rock cut cave is noticed at Dhanamkonda hill in Mogalrajpuram of Vijayawada datable to the 1st Century BC during the survey conducted by Dr E Sivanagi Reddy, Buddhist archaeologist and CEO of Cultural Centre Of Vijayawada and Amaravati (CCVA) on Sunday as part of the awareness campaign ‘Preserve Heritage for Posterity’ launched by the CCVA.

Dr Reddy along with Subhakar Medasani, a Buddhist heritage activist and president of AP Society for Preservation of Buddhist Heritage identified a cave cut into the hill at a height of 200 feet from the ground level. The cave measurements are 15 feet in length, 16 feet in height and 8 feet in depth.

He said that the rock cut cave was hewn in two stories. The lower one was used as rainy retreat (Varshaavaasa) of the Buddhist monks and the top floor was carved with a stupa motif measuring 5 feet x 5 feet.

The rock cut cave which could be accessed through a flight of steps cum a ramp opposite to Boyapati Madhavarao Street in Mogalrajpuram in the city. The cave and the stupa motif devoid of any artistic decor resembles the similar one located at Bojjannakonda (Sankaran) near Anakapalli in Visakhapatnam district also hewn during the Satavahana times, said Sivanagireddy.

He added that this rock cut cave belongs to the Theravada monks who used it as a retreat during the four months of the rainy season. Based on the historical importance of the Buddhist caves, Dr Reddy and Subhakar Medasani appealed the AP Tourism Authority to include it on the Vijayawada Buddhist circuit.

Towards the east of the rock cut cave, they have spotted a natural cave in the same hill which was also used as rainy retreat by the monks in their survey. Dr Sivanagireddy sensitised the local hill dwellers on the archaeological and historical significance of the Buddhist cave and the need to preserve it for posterity.

Credits : via Hans India

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Quick Revenge : Snake dies after biting man who bit back

An Indian man who was bitten by a snake got his revenge on the reptile by biting it back and killing it, the man’s father said on Monday (July 29).

The man, Mr Raj Kumar, was relaxing at home, enjoying a drink on Sunday, when a snake slithered into his house in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, and bit him, said his father.

“My son was drunk … he bit the snake and crunched it into pieces,” Mr babu Ram told Indian media. Doctors said he had been moved to another hospital for treatment.

The man’s family took him to hospital where media said his condition was critical. The snake that bit him was reported to have been a rat snake, which experts regard as usually not venomous.

“This is definitely weird,” said Mr Raj Kumar’s doctor, Dr N.P. Singh.

“I’ve seen people coming in with snakebites, but never somebody who bit a snake and then brought it with him in a bag.”

Mr Kumar’s family reportedly cremated the snake after the incident.

It is not the first time a human being has snapped back at a snake.

Just last month a 60-year-old Indian man was wiped out by a reptile bite in the Gujarat state, but killed the attacking snake with a bite of his own shortly before his death.

Credits to Indian Media and Reuters

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Centuries-old Nandi statues unearthed near Mysuru, India

A pair of centuries-old Nandi statues, carved out of monolithic soapstone, have been unearthed from a dried lake bed in Arasinakere, about 20 km from Mysuru.

The locals, particularly the senior citizens of the village, had earlier been aware of the presence of the Nandis, whose heads appeared to peep out partially whenever the water level in the lake dipped. The complete drying up of the waterbody during summer presented the curious residents an opportunity to dig deeper.

The locals, who dug up the area and even deployed an earth mover during a three-to-four-day exercise, managed to unearth two giant Nandi statues facing each other.

A team of officials from the Department of Archaeology, Museums and Heritage, including archaeologist M.L. Gowda and engineer Satish, visited the spot on Monday. Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Gowda said the statues appeared to belong to the 16th or 17th century, dating back to the post-Vijayanagar period. He said they resembled most of the sculptures carved out of the smooth soapstone during that period.

The statues are carved out of a single rock. “The statues are incomplete. While one appears to be 60% completed, the other is at about 85%,” Mr. Gowda said. He added that the statues were also not identical in size.

While one Nandi statue measures 15 ft in length and 12 ft in height, the other statue is smaller. the smaller one is more compact, according to locals.

The horns of the Nandis were observed by the villagers and following this, villagers started offering pujas to them. The statues were excavated on Sunday using earthmovers in a four-day-long operation.

Villagers said that more than ten idols of Gods too were found at this spot but they did not have a specific identity of them. Although these idols are said to be dated to the Mysore Maharaja rule, there is no clarity about this, they said

A report on the excavation has been sent to the Commissioner of the Department Archaeology, Museums and Heritage, T. Venkatesh. For the time being, further excavation has been stopped and the department officials is awaiting instructions from seniors on the measures to be taken for the statues’ conservation. Mr. Gowda said the department had been aware of the presence of the statues. “We conducted a spot inspection during 2016, but the area was covered with shrubs and submerged,” he said.

Meanwhile, citing locals, Jyothi S., Panchayat Development Officer of Marballi Gram Panchayat, under whose purview Arasinakere falls, said the village adjoining the waterbody is named after the Maharaja. Arasinakere, when translated into English, means ‘the king’s lake’, she said.

Locals also claim that the late Maharaja of Mysore, Sri Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar, had visited the lake several decades ago and tried to unearth the statues by deploying men and material. However, the labourers had to be abandon the task because of the rising water level in the lake.

While the locals suggest there could be an ancient temple beneath the lake, archaeologists say it is plausible that the Nandi statues had been carved out of the rock found at the spot for transportation to a different destination.

Source – Indian Media

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Eclipse 2019 LIVE stream: Watch tonight’s lunar eclipse of the Moon live online

Stargazers tonight will be able to witness a special event, as the Half-Blood Thunder Moon takes place. Eagle-eyed viewers will also be able to see two planets this evening. These are Saturn and Jupiter and will be visible just to the right of the Moon as it rises.

What is a Half-Blood Thunder Moon?

A Half-Blood Thunder Moon combines two factors, a partial lunar eclipse, also known as a Half-Blood Moon and July’s Thunder Moon.

Each full Moon has different names according to the month it falls in, and the name for the Moon in July is Thunder Moon

The event can also be called Hay, Buck or Mead Moon.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac explained on their website: “This full Moon [is] known as the Thunder Moon because thunderstorms are so frequent during this month.”

The name Buck Moon also comes from nature, as July is around the time when new antlers begin to grow on bucks’ heads.

A partial lunar eclipse, also known as a half-blood Moon will take place this evening – when part of the Moon will be obscured.

During a partial lunar eclipse, only a section of the moon passes through Earth’s inner shadow or umbra.

A BEAUTIFUL eclipse of the Moon tonight promises to dazzle seasoned astronomers and amateur stargazers alike. Find out how you can watch the lunar eclipse live online today.

Tonight’s eclipse is the second and last lunar eclipse of the Moon this year. The eclipse comes hot on the heels of a total solar eclipse over South America on July 2 and a total lunar eclipse on January 21. Today’s eclipse, however, will be a partial eclipse of the Moon, meaning only a part of the glowing orb will vanish from sight. But with the eclipse coinciding with the 50th anniversary of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission, the spectacle promises to be all the more exciting.

How to watch the lunar eclipse live online tonight?

The lunar eclipse is the breathtaking result of the Sun, the Earth and the Moon forming an almost perfect line.

As a result of this alignment, the Moon will enter the Earth’s shadow cast by the Sun’s warm glow.

When this happens later tonight, one side of the Moon will slowly darken until it vanishes

The eclipse will peak tonight around 10.30pm BST (9.30pm UTC) when the Moon is closest to the centre of Earth’s shadow.

Courtesy of the Virtual Telescope Project in Italy, the lunar eclipse will be broadcast online free of charge for all to enjoy.

Gianluca Masi, an astrophysicist and head of the Virtual Telescope Project, told the live stream will kick off tonight at 9.30pm UK time (8.30pm UTC).

Dr Masi said: “Next July 16, 2019, the Virtual Telescope will share live the upcoming partial lunar eclipse, showing the eclipse Moon above the legendary skyline of Rome as reported by

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