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卑弥呼天体有什么奇怪之处?

The Strange Case of the Himiko Blob

天文学里最炫酷的事情就是当你望着外太空时
One of the coolest things about astronomy is that just by looking out into space, you
你甚至可以看到很久以前发生的事情
can look back in time.
你可以看到恒星在几千年前由于核聚变发出的光
You can still see stars shining thousands of years after they exploded, and intergalactic
也可以看到数十亿年前星系之间的碰撞
collisions that ended billions of years ago.
如果你观测更远处的宇宙,甚至可以看到宇宙中最古老的星系
And if you look even further, you can see some of the first stars and galaxies in the
而这些星系是银河系这样大型星系的最原始的祖先
universe — the earliest ancestors of big galaxies like our very own Milky Way.
只要你抬头仔细观察一下天空,就能看到这些有趣的东西
All of that, just from looking up at the sky.
已知的最古老的星系之一就是Himiko星云
One of those early galaxies is known as the Himiko blob.
它就像一团云一样里面藏满了未知事物
And it’s pretty weird, as blobs go.
它体积庞大,亮度很高,而且非常的古老
It’s huge, it’s bright, and it’s really, really old.
Himiko是在2009年被日本的天文学家研究小组发现的
Himiko was discovered back in 2009 by a team of Japanese astronomers, who named it after
他们用三世纪时期日本的女皇的名字为其命名
a third-century Japanese queen.
尽管他们在夏威夷用望远镜观测到了Himiko
But even though they detected it using a telescope in Hawaii, Himiko’s light originally wouldn’t
但事实上它最初发出的光并不能穿过我们的大气层
have been able to make it through our atmosphere.
Himiko被归为一种叫做莱曼阿尔法星云的早期星系
Himiko is a type of early galaxy called a Lyman alpha blob, after the particular type
这些星系表面的原子反应都会发射出一种特殊的紫外线。
of ultraviolet light that its gas gives off.
如果这团星云与我们比较近,它发出的光在到达地球之前
If the blob were nearby, that light would get blocked by Earth’s protective ozone
就会被地球的臭氧层阻拦
layer long before it reached the ground.
如此一来,科学家永远都不会发现它
And astronomers never would’ve seen it.
十分幸运的是,Himiko实际上离我们非常的远
But luckily for them, Himiko isn’t nearby.
它与我们之间大概129亿光年的距离
It’s so far away that its light took 12.9 billion years to reach Earth, meaning that
也就是说它形成于宇宙大爆炸发生的8亿年后
Himiko formed just 800 million years after the universe began in the Big Bang.
Himiko极其古老,它已经没有任何像碳这样的重元素了
Himiko is so old that it has almost no heavy elements like carbon, which form as stars
这是恒星即将陨落的标志
die.
可以看到,Himiko星云中所有的恒星都诞生于宇宙的最初阶段
So all of Himiko’s stars are from the first generation of stars in the universe.
它发出的光,在长达129亿年的旅途中产生了红移
Over those 12.9 billion years of traveling, Himiko’s light was redshifted.
这是因为宇宙自身的膨胀会使光从短波的紫外线
Space itself expanded underneath the light, stretching it from short-wavelength ultraviolet
红移至波长较长的红外线
light all the way to much longer-wavelength infrared.
而这种红外线衍射能力较强,很容易就穿过我们的大气层
And infrared light can pass through the atmosphere just fine, which is why the team could observe
因此日本的科学家可以观测到它
this ancient cloud.
最开始观测到它的时候,它的古老带给我们浓浓的神秘气息
But with great age came great mysteries, at least at first.
Himiko的存在对宇宙中早期星系的形成理论
Because Himiko seemed to challenge the way that we think galaxies built up in the early
发出了挑战
universe.
传统观点认为在宇宙的最初十亿年中
The traditional story had been that smaller clouds of gas merged again and again, gradually
小团气体不断的融合
producing bigger and bigger galaxies over the course of the first couple billion years
渐渐的才形成现在看到的十分巨大的星系
of the universe’s history.
但Himiko是迄今为止发现的最古老的莱曼阿尔法星云
But Himiko was the oldest Lyman alpha blob ever discovered, and it was also the biggest
它也是我们发现的在宇宙初期就已经形成的最大的星系
thing ever discovered from when the universe was so young.
它的体积比银河系的一半还大一点
It was already half the size of the Milky Way, and ten times more massive than any other
比起在它所处区域发现的其他星系,它更是大了十倍不止
galaxy we’ve ever found from that era.
这恰恰就是令人不解的地方
Which was confusing.
天文学家意识到,如果无需融合就能形成很大的星系的话
Astronomers realized that if something that big could’ve formed before things started
那么如今的星系应该比现在要大得多才对
merging, either galaxies today should be much bigger or we’re missing something major
抑或是我们可能忽视了一些宇宙演化时重要的性质
about the way the universe evolved.
更令人奇怪的是,难以数计的恒星结合才能促成了Himiko这个庞然大物
To make things even weirder, Himiko seemed like it was forming an incredible number of
这让它比天文学家期待中的要亮很多
stars for its size, making it much brighter than astronomers would expect.
于是他们想更近距离的观察这团神秘的星云
They needed to take a closer look at this weird blob.
在2013年,由国际几名天文学家组成的研究组在天体物理学杂志中
So that’s exactly what an international team of astronomers did back in 2013, in a
声称他们确实做到了这种近距离的观察
study published in the Astrophysical Journal.
在新墨西哥的ALMA天文台,他们用哈勃望远镜进行了观测
Using the combined powers of the Hubble Space Telescope and the ALMA observatory in New
他们发现Himiko并不像我们想象的那么简单
Mexico, they found that Himiko isn’t just one large cluster like everyone thought.
而是由三个星云结合而成,并且每个星云的体积
It’s actually three merging clouds, and each cloud is about the size you’d expect
恰恰就是我们之前所推测的大小
objects to be from so soon after the Big Bang.
如此一来一个谜团就解决了,三个星云之间发生很罕见的碰撞,相互结合产生了我们现在看到的Himiko
So that’s one mystery solved: A rare early collision between three young galaxies produced
他们结合的十分巧妙,所以天文学家一直把他们当成一个整体
Himiko, which fit perfectly with what astronomers expect about that era of the universe.
而另一个谜团用他们的融合理论也可以解决
And the mergers actually solved the other mystery, too.
当气团相碰撞的时候,大量的气体会聚集到一起,很短时间内就会形成一颗恒星
When gas clouds collide, huge amounts of gas get forced together, triggering rapid star
这就对Himiko的存在做出了很好的解释
formation — just like astronomers saw in Himiko.
这也是它亮度很高的原因
That’s why it was so bright.
科学家在研究时经常观测到很多令人不解的现象,Himiko就是其中之一
Himiko was one of those mysteries where scientists saw something that didn’t make sense yet
他们并不清楚产生这种现象的原因
and weren’t sure what was going on.
但是随着数据的积累,他们会慢慢解决这些问题
But with more data, they solved it!
像Himiko这样的星云可以让我们了解宇宙的各种性质
Blobs like Himiko still have a lot to teach us about the universe and the kinds of collisions
同时也会让我们了解恒星形成之初发生的碰撞
that produced large galaxies.
至少在目前看来,这些不再是令科学家们困惑不已
But, at least for now, they’re no longer making astronomers scratch their heads in
的原因
confusion.
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