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我们发现的是外星人的信号吗? – 译学馆
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Are Aliens Signaling Us?

过去的几周里 你可能看到过一些奇怪的新闻标题
You might have seen some weird space news headlines going around over the last couple
of weeks.
如你所知 就是那些都是用大写字母和感叹号写成的新闻标题
You know, the ones with words in all caps and lots of exclamation marks?
某些新闻标题上写道 天文学家正式宣布他们终于发现了
Some of these headlines were saying that astronomers officially announced they’ve finally found
evidence of alien life.
如果事实真的如他们所宣布的那样 那这个消息将让人感到无比的兴奋
Which would be super exciting, if that was what they actually announced.
但真实的情况和往常一样 总是比报道的内容要纷繁复杂的多
But the real story, like always, is a little more complicated.
It all has to do with the light coming from other stars.
我们眼中所见或者在照片里看到的 星体看起来是红色或蓝色的 但它们实际上发射了
Stars might look red or blue to our eyes and in pictures, but they actually emit a huge
range of wavelengths of light.
通过把星体发出的光分散成不同波长的光 天文学家能够
By breaking a star’s light back up into those different wavelengths, astronomers can
得出一些结论 比如星体发出多少红光 多少蓝光以及多少
see things like how much red light a star puts out, how much blue, and how much of any
other wavelengths like ultraviolet light or x-rays.
这种分析结果被称为一个星体的光谱 它用来测量一些指标
That’s called a star’s spectrum, and it’s used to measure things like what the star’s
比如 星体的构成和星体的温度
made of and how hot it is.
但回到2012年 一个名叫埃尔曼诺·波尔天文学家预言某个星球周围的外星文明
But back in 2012, an astronomer named Ermanno Borra predicted that alien civilizations around
可以通过干扰某些光线 这些光线从他们星系发出而且还可以被检测到
a star could make themselves stand out by affecting the light that would be detected
这样 他们就变得更显而易见
from their star system.
例如 通过在太空中放置一个类似激光的东西 快速切换它的开关
By putting something like a laser on space and turning it on and off really fast
— like, a quadrillion times a second fast — they would make an unmistakeable imprint
它们将会产生一些标记 而不容易被弄错
on the spectrum we measure from their home star.
而非是不同颜色间的渐变 这样某些
Instead of being a mostly smooth transition across all the different colors, there would
特定的颜色就比星体产生的颜色 更为明亮
be certain specific colors with much more light than the star could produce naturally.
它的波长 并不像镭射光那样
It wouldn’t just be at the wave like the wave of the laser, either.
这些最高值 顾名思义 会在整个光谱中显得很显眼
These peaks, as they’re called, would show up throughout the spectrum.
So Borra and another astronomer, Eric Trottier, started searching through the two and a half
开始了在斯隆数字巡天调查中心进行的研究 针对两百五十万分的光谱
million spectra in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey for these sorts of telltale signatures.
几周前 他们在太平洋天文协会的出版物上发表了
They published their results a few weeks ago in Publications of the Astronomical Society
of the Pacific.
绝大部分星体看上去非常正常 这样可以讲得通
The vast majority of stars seemed completely normal, which would make sense — even if
尽管存在着成千上万的外星文明 奇怪的是并非所有的
there were tons of alien civilizations out there, odds are they wouldn’t all be signaling
外星文明 都以同样的方式发射信号
in the exact same way.
但是对于234颗星体的光谱的研究表面 这正和天文学家所探寻的峰值一致
But 234 of the stars in the survey showed exactly the type of peaks the astronomers
were looking for — exactly the kind we’d expect if there were civilizations orbiting
those stars, messing with the light.
我们都知道 几乎所有来自星体的信号 比如来自太阳的信号
And just about all of the signals came from stars like the Sun, which we know can support
intelligent life.
所以 是的 理论上很可能这些信号是外星生命存在的征兆
So yes, in theory, it’s possible these signals are signs of alien life.
但这些信号并非完全让人信服 也有许多其他的可能
But they aren’t very convincing signs, and there are lots of other possibilities.
首先 最高值可能受到团队分析光谱方式的影响 虽然
For one thing, the peaks could have come from the way the team analyzed the spectra, although
在那种情况下 可能会有超过234个星体
in that case there would probably be more than just 234 glitches.
也可能有一些关于这些星体本身 我们所不知道或不理解的内容
There could also be something about the stars themselves that we don’t know or understand yet.
或者它们会包含一些奇怪分子的气体云团 这也会影响
Or they could have clouds of gas with strange molecules in them, which would also affect
their spectra.
研究团队认为 鉴于我们对那些星体的了解 那些原因
The research team thinks all of those possibilities are pretty unlikely given what we know about
the stars.
但是其他研究者说 他们需要更多的证据
But other researchers are saying they need much more evidence.
所以一些天文学家将要仔细检查这些星体 看看他们是否可以看到相同的信号
So teams of astronomers are going to be checking out the stars to see if they see the same
sorts of signals, and to see if there’s anything else weird going on with them.
同时 在地球上 我们颇为麻烦地将人们送出近地轨道
Meanwhile, here on Earth, we have enough trouble getting people out of low-Earth orbit.
一个公司正在试图改变发生在SpaceX身上的事实 它的Falcon9号火箭
One company trying to change that has been SpaceX, and its Falcon 9 rocket exploded during
a pre-flight test at the beginning of September.
SpaceX在NASA 联邦航空协会 美国空军是帮助之下
SpaceX — with help from NASA, the Federal Aviation Association, and the US Air Force
花费了最后的数月 试图搞清楚发生了什么
— has spent the last couple months trying to figure out what happened.
那是一个复杂的事故 他们考虑了各个方面 从不合格的配件到
It was a complicated accident, and they’ve considered everything from failed parts to
foul play.
现在 两个月后 他们开始想清楚爆炸事故的原因
And now, two months later, they’re starting to get some idea of what caused the explosion.
根据上周发布的一项声明 问题出在火箭的
According to a statement released last week, the problem was with a tank storing high-pressure
liquid helium on the rocket.
火箭在许多不同的地方使用氦 它应该被储存于
The rockets use helium in a bunch of different places, and it’s supposed to be stored using
称为复合外包装压力容器的设备 即COPV当中
what are called composite overwrapped pressure vessels, or COPVs.
COPV应该将氦储存在液氧容器里 它是
The COPVs are supposed to hold the helium inside tanks of liquid oxygen, which is one
of the components of the rocket’s fuel.
但是氦是一种不易存储的物质 尤其是在极其高的压力下
But helium is a tricky thing to contain — especially at incredibly high pressures.
氦原子非常小 它们可以穿过任何非常微小的瑕疵
Helium atoms are so small that they can wriggle through just about any tiny imperfection in
whatever they’re being stored in.
That’s what SpaceX thinks happened with the Falcon 9.
一些液氦泄漏出来 造成了COPV的裂缝 由此引发了爆炸
Some liquid helium leaked, causing a rupture in the COPV that led to the explosion.
SpaceX的工程师已经可以在实验室复制同样的故障 但是他们仍然
SpaceX’s engineers have been able to reproduce the problem back in a lab, but they’re still
在寻找发射过程中到底哪里出了故障 以及如何去修理
searching for what exactly went wrong with the launch– and how to fix it.
But they’re aiming to be ready to launch another rocket before the end of the year.
So here’s hoping they figure this out soon.
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