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2 Jan 2024 : Indian Express

1. X-ray eye in the sky

Topic: GS3 – Science and Technology- Developing new technology- Space  

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of India’s Space exploration programs.

Context:
  • On the first morning of 2024, X-ray Polarimeter Satellite (XPoSat) was launched into orbit by ISRO’s launch vehicle, marking a major accomplishment for Indian astronomers.
  • This equipment has the potential to advance astronomical research because it was conceived and made in the country.

Unique Capabilities of POLIX:

  • POLIX (Indian X-ray Polarimeter), the primary instrument on board XPoSat, has been developed during the last 15 years at Bangalore’s Raman Research Institute.
  • POLIX has remarkable skills despite its tiny size—roughly half a metre in all dimensions and about two hundred kilogrammes in weight.
  • Its goal is to investigate X-ray polarisation in space, a unique characteristic that is essential to comprehending some celestial objects.

Understanding X-ray Polarisation:

  • X-rays are electromagnetic waves produced by the motion of electric charges, just like regular light.
  • The motion of the electric charge causing the wave determines the direction of variation in the X-ray electric field.
  • When ordered variations occur in electric fields, polarised light is observed, which has a distinct direction of variation.

Significance of Polarisation in Celestial Objects:

  • Some celestial objects emit polarised X-rays, such as regions surrounding black holes and stars with massive magnetic fields.
  • Stars with X-ray brightness and strong magnetic fields are called pulsars; they can be as massive as the Sun but condensed to the size of a city.
  • Astronomers can learn more about the orientations of magnetic fields by measuring the polarisation of X-rays emitted from these objects.

Challenges in X-ray Detection:

  • Because X-rays are so energetic, they are difficult to gather from space and cannot be focused using lenses like those used for regular light.
  • The majority of cosmic X-rays are also absorbed by Earth’s atmosphere, which complicates their detection and measurement.
  • There have only been a few prior efforts with balloon-borne instrumentation.

Innovative Design of POLIX:

  • POLIX’s design team, consisting of experts, took a distinct approach.
  • The device has a beryllium disc at its centre and is formed like a cubical cylinder.
  • Using the polarisation after scattering concept, detectors positioned around the walls gather X-rays that have been scattered from the metallic disc.
  • The team decided on beryllium because of its controllable features in spite of difficulties.

Complementing NASA’s Efforts:

  • NASA’s instrument (IXPE), which was launched in December 2021, is enhanced by POLIX.
  • Unlike its NASA equivalent, POLIX can investigate lower-energy X-rays because to its beryllium disc.
  • When combined, the data from both devices will help astronomers understand the properties of black holes and pulsars. 

Anticipation for XPoSat’s Observations:

  • With its revolutionary X-ray polarimetry measurements, XPoSat promises to provide novel insights into the nature of celestial events. All eyes are now on this spacecraft as it sets off on its mission to search the cosmos.
What is Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE)?
  • NASA and the Italian Space Agency are working together on the IXPE Space Observatory.
  • In addition to supernova remnants and supermassive black holes, it investigates “the most extreme and mysterious objects in the universe.”

Significance:

  • It will be useful for observing polarised X-rays coming from supermassive black holes and neutron stars.
  • X-ray polarisation measurement tells the tale of the light’s origin, including the structure and internal dynamics of the source.
  • It will also help scientists figure out why pulsars light so brightly in X-rays and how black holes spin and where they were located in the past. 
PYQ: Launched on 25th December, 2021, James Webb Space Telescope has been much in the news since then. What are its unique features which make it superior to its predecessor Space Telescopes? What are the key goals of this mission? What potential benefits does it hold for the human race? (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2022)
Practice Question: How does ISRO’s recently launched X-ray Polarimeter Satellite (XPoSat), equipped with the indigenous instrument POLIX, mark a significant milestone for Indian astronomers, and what unique capabilities does POLIX bring to the study of X-ray polarisation in celestial objects? (250 words/15 m)

2. The temples of justice

Topic: GS2 – PolityJudiciary

This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of challenges faced by judiciary in India.

Context:
  • The article starts out by outlining the difficulties facing the Indian court and expresses worry that these problems have not been sufficiently addressed in recent years.
  • It is observed that the judiciary faces numerous difficulties, and that the use of religious sentiments as a diversion from political and economic issues is common.

Need for Unbiased Justice and Political Neutrality:

  • According to the article, India needs judges who administer justice without giving in to the views of the majority.
  • A political system that excludes religion from politics is also demanded, highlighting the significance of a political power symbolising a state that abstains from utilising religion as a tool for political advantage.

Overburdened Judicial System:

  • The article draws attention to the difficulties the legal system faces, such as an expanding population, injustices committed by the government, and a lack of judges at all levels of the judicial hierarchy.
  • This leads to more work, less time for introspection, and postponed hearings, especially at the Supreme Court, which affects the court’s judgement on important matters.

Decline in Judicial Quality and Collegium System Critique:

  • The entrenched system of appointments to the higher judiciary, which is frequently seen as favouring individuals associated with a specific ideological mentality, is blamed for the reduction in the calibre of judges.
  • Citing the lack of openness and the requirement for a more merit-oriented approach in judicial selections, the article criticises the collegium system.

Political Interference and Lack of Meritocracy:

  • The article highlights the shortcomings of the present path to become a high court judge, which involves government advocate selections that could be swayed by political connections.
  • Reputable solicitors are allegedly disregarded, which lowers the calibre of judges in general.

Political Exploitation of Religion:

  • The article highlights the use of religion for political gain, with Hindu temples becoming as a focal point of modern politics.
  • This is seen as an attempt to separate the state from its residents who follow other religions in order to increase the Hindu vote.

Emergence of a De-facto Hindu State:

  • The creation of a de facto Hindu state, where Hinduism is given precedence in the social and political order, is cause for concern, according to the article.
  • The Prime Minister’s participation in the opening of the Ram Janmabhoomi temple has blurred the boundaries between state and religion, leading to accusations that opposition to this venture is anti-Hindu and anti-national.

Conclusion:

  • The article concludes by raising concerns that the Court would stand by as an inclusive India slowly fades away and constitutional aims are realigned in a way that substitutes the preamble of the Constitution with a new definition of Hinduism that is at odds with its founding principles.
PYQ: Critically examine the Supreme Court’s judgement on ‘National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, 2014’ with reference to appointment of judges of higher judiciary in India. (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2017)
Practice Question: How do the challenges faced by the Indian judiciary, including issues of political interference, declining judicial quality, and the perceived exploitation of religion for political gains, impact the principles of unbiased justice and constitutional values? (250 words/15 m)

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