【TED】我们的太阳系内可能存在外星生命

力哥
力哥
力哥
1083
文章
0
评论
2020年1月25日15:38:00【TED】我们的太阳系内可能存在外星生命已关闭评论 31 次浏览
【TED】我们的太阳系内可能存在外星生命

在我们的太阳系深处,太空探索的新时代正在进行。在木卫二厚厚的冰层之下、在土卫二的蒸汽羽流中、以及在土卫六的甲烷湖中,科学家们正在寻找外星的生命。这些卫星是“海洋星球”——它们拥有支持生命形成的液态海洋。而这些“海洋星球”中又是否存在着生命呢?奥古斯托·卡布里多探索了这种可能性。

Deep in our solar system, a new era of space exploration is unfolding. Beneath the thick ice of Europa, in the vapor plumes on Enceladus, and within the methane lakes of Titan, astrobiologists are on the hunt for extraterrestrial life.

在太阳系的深处,太空探索的新时代正在发生。在木卫二的厚厚冰层之下、在土卫二的蒸汽羽流中、以及在土卫六的甲烷湖里,天体生物学家正在寻找外星生命的线索。

We’ve honed in on these three moons because each is an ‘ocean world,’ an environment that contains a liquid ocean– and liquid can support the formation of life.

之所以他们锁定在以上的三个卫星,是因为它们每个都是“海洋星球”,即拥有液态的海洋环境——而液体是形成生命的基础条件。

Living organisms have to be able to grow, reproduce, and feed themselves, among other things. All of those functions require the formation of complex molecules from more basic components. Liquids such as water allow chemical compounds to remain in suspension instead of sinking under the force of gravity. This enables them to interact frequently in a 3-dimensional space and, in the right conditions, go through chemical reactions that lead to the formation of living matter.

除其它因素外,有机生物体必须要有能生长、繁殖和食物养活的环境。所有这些功能都源于复杂的分子——由更基本的成分组成。水样液体能够使化合物保持悬浮,而非因重力的作用而下沉。使到它们能够在三维空间中,作出频繁的相互作用,并在合适的条件下,产生化学反应,从而产生生命的物质。

That alone isn’t enough; the small but complex biomolecules that we’re familiar with are sensitive to temperature— too hot or cold, and they won’t mix. Liquid water has an additional advantage in that it’s relatively temperature-stable, meaning it can insulate molecules against large shifts in heat. On Earth, these and other conditions in aquatic environments may have supported the emergence of life billions of years ago. Tantalizingly, the same could be true in other parts of our solar system, like these three icy moons.

仅仅是这点,并不足够,我们熟悉的复杂而微小的生物分子对温度很敏感——太热或太冷,它们都不会结合。液态水还有另外的优点,就是温度相对稳定,意味着液态水能够将分子从巨大温差中隔离。地球上,某些水生环境的特性,可能催生了数十亿年前生命的出现。这个发现,令人急于求证太阳系其他部分,也有生命的可能,譬如这三个冰冷的卫星。

Europa, which is a moon of Jupiter, is probably the most intriguing ocean world. Beneath a surface layer of ice thicker than Mount Everest, there exists a liquid ocean as much as 100 kilometers deep. Astrobiologists think this hidden ocean could harbor life. Thanks to the Galileo probe, we can deduce that its potential salt content is similar to that of some lakes on Earth. But most of its characteristics will be a mystery until we can explore it further.

木卫二是木星的一个卫星,它或许是最令人感兴趣的海洋星球。在比珠穆朗玛峰的高度还厚的冰层底下,是个深达100公里的液态海洋。这让天体生物学家相信,这个隐藏着的海洋,可能孕育着生命。这就多亏了伽利略探测器,他们推断液态海洋可能的含盐量与地球上的某些湖泊相近。大部分现象还需更多的探索,才能解开谜团。

Like Jupiter, Saturn also has moons that might have the right conditions for life. For instance– Enceladus is a tiny ball of ice that’s small enough to nestle within the surface area of the Gulf of Mexico. Similarly to Europa, it likely contains an ocean deep under the ice. But Enceladus also has geysers that frequently vent water vapor and tiny ice grains into space. Astrobiologists are curious about whether these geysers are connected to the ocean below. They hope to send a probe to test whether the geysers’ plumes of vapor contain life-enabling material from that hidden sea.

就像木星一样,土星的卫星也可能拥有适合生命的条件。例如土卫二是一个小小的冰球,小得可以放进去墨西哥湾。与木卫二相似,它也可能在厚冰层之下有个海洋。但土卫二还有个间歇泉,经常向太空喷射水汽和微小冰粒。天体生物学家好奇,究竟喷泉是否与下方的海洋相连。他们希望发射一个探测器,以测试间歇泉的蒸汽羽流,是否在隐藏海洋中含有促成生命的物质。

Although it’s the best known substance for nurturing life, water isn’t necessarily the only medium that can support living things. Take Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, which has a thick nitrogen atmosphere containing methane and many other organic molecules. Its clouds condense and rain onto Titan’s surface, sustaining lakes and seas full of liquid methane. This compound’s particular chemistry means it’s not as supportive a medium as water. But, paired with the high quantities of organic material that also rain down from the sky, these bodies of liquid methane could possibly support unfamiliar life forms.

水虽然是孕育生命最著名的物质,但水不一定是维持生物的唯一介质。以土星最大的卫星土卫六为例,它有厚厚的氮气层,含有甲烷和许多其它有机分子。它的云层凝结做成降雨,落到土卫六的表面上,形成充满液态甲烷的湖泊和海洋。液态甲烷的特殊化学性质意味着它不太像水那样能够支持生命。但伴随着甲烷雨,大量有机物也从天而降,这些甲烷液体可能可以支持不常见的生命形成。

So what might indicate that life exists on these or other worlds? If it is out there, astrobiologists speculate that it would be microscopic, comparable to the bacteria we have on earth. This would make it difficult to directly observe from a great distance, so astrobiologists seek clues called biosignatures. Those may be cells, fossils, or mineral traces left behind by living things. And finding any biosignatures will be challenging for many reasons. One of the biggest concerns is to make sure we sterilize our probes extremely thoroughly. Otherwise we could accidentally contaminate ocean worlds with Earth’s own bacteria, which could destroy alien life.

所以什么样的条件能够显示出那些星球存在生命呢?天体生物学家推测,如果有生物的话,也是极微小的,相当于我们地球上的细菌。这就很难从远处直接观察到生命了,因此,天体生物学家需要寻求称为“生物印记”的线索。那些可能是生物残留下来的细胞、化石或矿物痕迹。若要找到任何生物印记,并非容易的事情。最大担忧之一,就是我们要确保探测器要彻底消毒,否则,一不小心我们就让地球上的细菌,污染了那些海洋星球,极可能摧毁了外星的生命。

Titan, Enceladus, and Europa are just three of possibly many ocean worlds that we could explore. We already know of several other candidates in our solar system, including Jupiter’s moons Callisto and Ganymede, Neptune’s Triton, and even Pluto. If there’s this much potential for life to exist in our own tiny solar system, what unimagined secrets might the rest of the universe contain?

土卫六、土卫二和木卫二只是众多可探索的“海洋星球”之中的三个而已,还有在其他太阳系中已知的几个候选者,包括木星的卫星:木卫四和木卫三、海王星的海卫一,甚至是冥王星。如果在我们小小的太阳系内都有如此多的可能性存有生物,那在宇宙的其他部分,会存在哪样我们无法想象的秘密呢?

下载信息 【TED】我们的太阳系内可能存在外星生命
下载地址
展开全文
weinxin
扫码关注公众号
力哥爱英语,只分享有价值的英语学习资源。关注公众号,获取更多内容。
力哥
  • 版权声明: 发表于 2020年1月25日15:38:00
  • 转载注明:https://ienglish521.com/2995.html