开普勒 R.I.P

It used to be that finding even one new planet was enough to make an astronomer's career.
曾经即便是找到一颗新卫星都足以成就一名天文学家的事业。
Uranus was discovered in 1781 by William Herschel, who these days has, among other things, space telescopes, asteroids, schools and a street in Paris named in his honour.
威廉·赫舍尔于1781年发现天王星。如今,还有那些为了纪念他而以他的名字命名的太空望远镜、小行星、学校和巴黎街道。
Urbain le Verrier, who predicted the existence of Neptune in 1846, based on its gravitational influence on Uranus,
1946年,基于海王星对天王星的重力影响,奥本·勒维耶预言了海王星的存在。
has likewise given his name to craters, asteroids and bits of the French capital. It is one of 72 engraved into the sides of the Eiffel tower.
同样也有以他名字为名的火山口和小行星。他的名字和其他71人的名字一同被刻在了法国埃菲尔铁塔的一侧。
These days, though, astronomers can do better. William Borucki has thousands to his name.
虽然,如今的天文学家可以做得更好。威廉·博鲁茨基有上千个属于他的荣誉。
He is the researcher who conceived of and ran Kepler, a planet-hunting space telescope that was launched in 2009.
他是一名研究人员,是开普勒的构想和运行者。行星探测太空望远镜开普勒于2009年发射。
On October 30th NASA announced that, after nearly a decade in space, Kepler had run out of fuel and would be retired.
10月30日,开普勒在太空服役近十年之计,美国国家宇航局(NASA)宣布它的燃料已耗尽,并将退役。
Kepler has discovered around 2,600 exoplanets— those that orbit stars other than the sun.
开普勒发现了约2600颗外星行星—那些围绕恒星而非太阳运行的行星。
Another 3,000 candidates await confirmation from ground-based telescopes. The result has been a revolution in astronomy.
另外3000名候选者在等待着陆基望远镜的确认。这是天文学史上的一个革命性成果。
Its practitioners had long assumed that other stars were likely to have planets of their own. These days, they know that to be true.
其实践者一直都认为其他恒星可能拥有自己的行星。如今他们知道事实确实如此。
The first exoplanets were detected in 1992, thanks to the gravitational effect they had on the pulsar around which they orbited.
首批外星行星于1992年被探测出来,这多亏了它们对围绕在它们运转轨道周围的脉冲星的重力影响。
(A pulsar is the dead, ultra-dense remnant left over after a supernova.) A trickle of subsequent discoveries followed.
(脉冲星是在超新星阶段后超高密度的死亡残余。)随后小发现接踵而来。
Kepler transformed that trickle into a flood. Yet it almost did not happen. Dr Borucki proposed the mission four times to NASA before it was accepted in 2001.
开普勒将细流转变成一次涌现。但它差一点就没能发生。博鲁茨基博士四次向NASA提议该望远镜,直到2001年NASA才同意。
Rather than look for stellar wobbles caused by a planet's gravity, he suggested monitoring a star's light itself—
他并没有建议寻找由一颗行星重力引起的恒星摇晃,而是提议监视恒星光线的本身—
looking for tiny dips in brightness as planets, if any, crossed in front of the stellar disc.
寻找当行星从星盘前边穿过时(如果有的话)亮度中的微小倾角。
It is a simple idea. But it required the construction of a light detector 1,000 times more sensitive than anything that had been built before.
这是个简单的想法,但它对光探测器的要求非常高,其灵敏度需要是之前那些望远镜的1000倍之多。

The advantage of this "transit" method is that it is well-suited to mass production.
这种“中天”方法的优势在于非常适合大量成果产出。
Kepler was designed to stare fixedly at a single patch of sky in the constellation of Cygnus, observing around 150,000 stars simultaneously.
开普勒的设计目标是固定监控天鹅座星群中天空的一小块地方,同时观察约150000颗恒星。
The consequential torrent of data can be used to draw statistical conclusions about the rest of the galaxy.
利用间接传输的数据流可得出关于星系剩余部分的统计结论。
It seems likely that every one of the Milky Way's hundreds of billions of stars sports at least one planet.
似乎有可能银河数千亿颗恒星中的每一颗都至少在一个行星中嬉戏。
Many of these are of a type unknown in the solar system.
其中很多都是太阳系中未知的类型。
The most common in Kepler's data are "super-Earths"—rocky worlds intermediate in size between Earth and Neptune.
开普勒数据中最常见的是“超级类地行星”—大小介于地球和海王星之间的多岩世界。
Kepler also helped prove that "hot Jupiters" are common. These are gas giants which orbit implausibly close to their stars.
开普勒还帮助证实了“热木星”的普遍性。它们是气体巨星,围绕距离它们非常之近的恒星轨道而行
Theorists, who would previously have argued that such planets were impossible,
之前认为这些行星不可能存在的理论学家
are still debating whether they are able to form in situ or whether they coalesce farther out in their stellar systems and then migrate inward,
仍争辩它们是否能够在原地形成或是它们是否是在更远处的恒星系统中合成,然后再向内部移动,
knocking other planets into deep space as they do so in a game of planetary billiards.
与其他行星相撞进入更深处的太空,就像在行星台球游戏中一样。
Kepler's biggest quarry was Earthlike planets at just the right distance around their stars for liquid water to exist on their surfaces.
开普勒的最大猎物群是类地行星,它们与其恒星距离适当,这样液态水才能在它们的表面存在。
Several have turned up, but the search became harder in 2013, by which time two of the four gyroscopes that kept the telescope stable had broken.
已经找到了几个类地行星,但在2013年搜寻任务变得更加艰难,那时四个维持望远镜稳定的陀螺仪中,有两个已经损坏。
Kepler's engineers came up with an ingenious fix, relying on the radiation pressure exerted by sunlight to re-steady the craft.
开普勒的工程师想出了一个独创性的修补方法,依靠太阳外露的辐射压力重新稳定航空器。
With its fuel depleted, no technological rescue is possible this time. But nothing succeeds like success. Exoplanets are now the hottest topic in astronomy.
随着其燃料的耗尽,这一次再也没有可能的技术补救方法了。但是一事成功百事顺。现在外星行星是天文学界最热话题。
The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, launched in April, is a Kepler-like mission designed to look for exoplanets in Earth's immediate neighbourhood.
凌日系外行星勘测卫星于4月发射。它是一个开普勒类似的望远镜,其目的是为了寻找地球附近的外星行星。
These might be amenable to detailed follow-ups from other, more powerful telescopes.
这些或许能够经得起来自望远镜后起之秀的详细的后续行动的考验。
In theory, it should be possible to sniff the air of such neighbours for signs of life, or even make rough maps of their surfaces.
理论上,它应该能够嗅到附近生命体征的存在,甚至还能对它们的表面进行粗略的绘制。
Two similar European missions are scheduled to launch in 2019 and 2026. Exoplanetology is just getting started.
两个类似的欧洲望远镜计划于2019年和2026年发射。系外行星学刚刚起步。

来源:经济学人

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