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An Indian Air Force soldier drinks tea as he stands guard next to rifles during a break at the rehearsal for the Republic Day parade on a cold winter morning in New Delhi, Dec. 26, 2018. VOA

Indian authorities have ordered firefighters in the capital to sprinkle water from high-rise buildings to settle dust and stop garbage fires and have banned construction activity as hazardous air quality affects millions of people.

New Delhi recorded one of the highest pollution levels of the year on Sunday with the air quality index, measuring sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, touching 450.


The air started improving Wednesday with an increase in wind speed. However, the level of PM 2.5, tiny particulate matter that can dangerously clog lungs, exceeded 320 on Thursday, more than 13 times beyond what the World Health Organization considers safe, according to the U.S. Embassy reading.


People take early morning walk amid smog in New Delhi, Dec. 26, 2018. In the Indian capital, the air quality hovered between severe and very poor this week posing a serious health hazard for millions of people. VOA

Diesel engines, coal plants

A government advisory asked people to avoid jogging outdoor and use masks. The government has banned diesel vehicles that are more than 10 years old. It also ordered builders to cover construction sites to stop dust enveloping the area.

“There are so many cars … there is so much dust. It all goes inside (our body). If we don’t wear a mask then we face a lot of (health) problems,” said Om Prakash, a traffic police constable wearing a protective mask on a New Delhi road.

India’s air pollution comes mostly from diesel-fuel-burning vehicles, coal-fired power plants and crop burning. It worsens in the dry winters, as winds die down and pollution pools over the Delhi plains.

Vehicular smog mixes with smoke from festival-season fireworks as well as countless illegal pyres of garbage burned by homeless migrants to stay warm as temperatures near freezing. And the construction sends up clouds of dust.


A man rides his bicycle in front of the India Gate shrouded in smog in New Delhi, Dec. 26, 2018. VOA

Winter air quality poor

Vivek Chattopadhyaya, a senior program manager with New Delhi-based Center for Science and Environment, said that air quality most of the days in and around the Indian capital during the winter season was “very poor, poor and severe.”

“Delhi’s air quality, when we say improvement, what we notice is that it falls from severe to very poor days. None of the days are good, satisfactory or even moderately polluted,” he said. “We need to meet the quality standards, which are the safest standards for the people to breathe air. So that should be our target.”

Also Read: Toxic Air of Delhi Prompting People To Quit City

The Indian capital saw some success following a 1998-2003 program that removed power plants from the city center and adopted compressed natural gas, CNG, for running buses and rickshaws. The buses had run on diesel and the rickshaws on gasoline and highly polluting kerosene. Of all possible fuels, CNG releases the smallest amounts of particulate matter.

But years later the pollution levels are back up. (VOA)


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Indian astronomers have found an active galaxy in a very bright state with 10 times more X-ray emission than normal

Indian astronomers have found an active galaxy in a very bright state with 10 times more X-ray emission than normal, equivalent to more than 10 trillion of the sun, and located five billion light years away that could help probe how particles behave under intense gravity and acceleration to the speed of light.

It could help study the role of strong gravity and acceleration of matter in the formation, interaction and evolution of galaxies in the early universe.

Every galaxy in the universe is believed to host a supermassive black hole at its centre. In some galaxies, the black hole is actively devouring a large amount of material and shooting a jet of plasma almost at the speed of light towards us. These are called blazars.

OJ 287 belongs to a class of blazars known as BL Lacertae objects which show very rapid and large amplitude flux variations but barely discernible emission line features.

This class of sources emit in the whole electromagnetic spectrum, a rather uncommon phenomenon which requires extreme physical conditions. Hence, a study of such sources tells us about the behaviour of matter in an extreme gravitational field where it is difficult for light to escape from the vicinity of the black hole.

Astronomers at Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences, an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, have been monitoring one such black hole system named 'OJ 287' since 2015. This source shows a repeated optical brightness enhancement almost every 12 years.

"The repeated optical enhancement makes OJ 287 very intriguing as this class of sources does not show any repeating features in flux variations. The repeated optical enhancement made the researchers believe that the system hosts a binary black hole," said a release from the Ministry of Science and Technology.

In 2020, the source was very bright at optical and X-ray bands with X-ray flux more than 10 times the normal (non-active phase) flux. This flare was very different as it was not expected in models proposed for this source and thus, indicated a more complex system and physical conditions.

Investigating the extreme brightness shown by OJ 287 at optical and X-ray bands, astronomers led by Pankaj Kushwaha and Alok C. Gupta reported the source in a completely new spectral state.

The team argued that this change of state holds clues to the researcher's quest to understand how matter behaves in very strong gravity and how it accelerates the particle to almost the speed of light -- a feat that is out of the scope of even the most advanced CERN accelerator.

The research published in 'The Astrophysical Journal' tracked the details of changes in optical to the X-ray emission spectrum of the source with time from 2017 to 2020 -- after the second brightest X-ray flare of the source. It revealed how the source gradually started to change its spectral behaviour from mid-2018 to the new spectral state in 2020.

The study included data recorded by the ground-based facility operated by Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, operated Mount Abu observing facility in near infra-red bands and the space-based NASA's satellites -- the Niels Gherel Swift satellite at optical, UV and X-rays with gamma ray data from the Fermi satellite, the release added. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: Science, NASA, Satellites, Black Hole, Gravity, India


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Tospread awareness about the significance of reading, Rachna Kalra, who hails from Gurugram (Haryana), started the Silent Book Club in the year 2019.

Who doesn't like reading, and that, too, reading along the company of mother nature? Well, this book club is truly a fantasy turned to reality.

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Ninety-eight per cent of Indian travellers say they want to stay in a sustainable accommodation in the coming year.

A Travel Sustainable badge, provides highly coveted information to travellers all over the world looking to make more sustainable travel choices. Booking.com has launched the Travel Sustainable Badge, a first of its kind in the industry, designed to be applicable to a wide range of property types, from apartments, B&Bs, and vacation homes to hotels, resorts, and even treehouses, and adaptable to local realities and considerations.

Ninety-eight per cent of Indian travellers say they want to stay in a sustainable accommodation in the coming year, and with more than 28 million listings on Booking.com, the company sees a huge opportunity to highlight more of the impactful efforts its partners are making to create more sustainable experiences, making it easier for travellers to find a sustainable way to stay.

Follow NewsGram on Facebook to stay updated.

With 88 percent of Indian travellers indicating that they would be more likely to choose a specific accommodation that implements sustainable practices, it rewards and encourages providers to take the next steps on their individual sustainability journeys.

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