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外星球的怪异极端天气:高温暴风硫酸雨

更新时间:2019/6/24 15:30:18 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The strange world of weather on other planets
外星球的怪异极端天气:高温暴风硫酸雨

We often complain about the weather, particularly as more extreme weather events become more commonplace here on Earth, but what if we spent our holiday weekends battling 5,400-mile-an-hour winds or temperatures hot enough to melt lead?

我们经常抱怨天气不好,尤其是现在地球上的极端的天气事件变得越来越普遍,但是如果有一天,我们周末出游时遇到时速5400英里(8690公里)的大风,或者气温升高到能把金属都融化的程度,那又如何呢?

Weather, good or bad, is not only a permanent fixture on our planet - it’s prevalent, and even more extreme, out there in the depths of space.

天气,不管是好是坏,不仅仅是我们居住的星球才有的自然生态,在宇宙中是普遍存在,而且和地球比起来只会更加极端。

Let’s start close to home, with our neighbour Venus, the most inhospitable place in the solar system. Basically, Venus is a biblical hellhole. Home to a thick atmosphere mostly consisting of carbon dioxide, the atmospheric pressure on Venus is 90 times that found on Earth. This atmosphere traps much of the Sun’s radiation which means temperatures on Venus can reach up to 460C - so you’d be crushed and boiling within seconds if you were to set foot here. But if that doesn’t sound painful enough, rain on Venus is made up of extremely corrosive sulphuric acid, which would severely burn any interstellar traveller’s skin.

让我们从家附近地球的邻居——金星开始说起。金星是太阳系当中最不适宜居住的星球。可以说,金星就是《圣经》里的地狱。金星的大气层很厚,主要由二氧化碳组成,其大气压力是地球的90倍。这种大气层捕获了大部分的太阳热辐射,意味着金星的温度可以高达460摄氏度,所以如果你踏上金星,几秒钟的工夫身体就会被压扁和沸腾。但如果这听起来还不够痛苦,再想想金星上的雨是由极具腐蚀性的硫酸组成,这将严重灼伤星际旅行者的皮肤。

Due to the planet’s extreme surface temperatures, this rain would evaporate before landing. Yet even more bizarrely, there is ‘snow ‘on Venus. Not the type that you could have snowball fight with: this stuff is made up of the basalt frost remnants of metals vaporised by its atmosphere.

由于金星表面温度极高,这些雨水在落到金星地表前就会被蒸发。然而更怪异的是,金星上竟然有“雪”。但不是那种你可以用来打雪仗的雪,金星上的“雪”是被大气蒸发的玄武岩霜冻残留物组成。

At the other end of our solar system you have gas giant planets Uranus and Neptune. The latter, our most distant planet, is home to frozen methane clouds and the most violent winds in the solar system. Because of the planet’s topography, which is fairly flat, there’s nothing to slow down these supersonic methane winds which can reach speeds of up to 1,500mph.

在太阳系的另一端,有天王星和海王星这些巨大的气态行星。海王星是距离我们最遥远的行星,这个星球有冰冻的甲烷云和太阳系最猛烈的风。海王星的超音速甲烷风风速每小时可达1500 英里(约合2400公里),由于地形相当平坦,没有任何障碍可以减缓其风速。

As well as being able to hear the sound barrier breaking, a visit here would also include diamond rain, thanks to the carbon in the atmosphere being compressed. But you wouldn’t have to worry about being whacked by a falling stone, as you’d already have been frozen instantly.

除了能听到音障被突破的巨大爆炸声,在海王星你还能看到钻石雨,因为大气中的碳受到了高压而形成钻石。但是你不用担心会被落下的宝石砸到,因为你一抵达海王星瞬间即会被冻结。

Tom Louden is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Warwick, and he’s a bit like an intergalactic weatherman – it’s his job to find out what the atmospheric conditions are on other planets.

劳登(Tom Louden)是沃里克大学(University of Warwick)的博士后研究员,他的工作有点像星际气象员,就是发现其他行星上的大气状况。

“The upper atmosphere of Venus is actually one of the more habitable places in the Solar System, apart from the Earth,” he states. Above its sulphuric acid clouds, there’s a point where the pressure is roughly that of our planet.

他说:“除了地球之外,金星的大气层上端实际上是太阳系中最适宜人居住的地方之一。”在金星的硫酸云层之上,其大气层有一个点的压力大致与地球大气压力相当。

“You wouldn’t be able to breathe the atmosphere, but you could imagine being in a big hot-air balloon or something filled with Earth atmosphere. And if you had an oxygen mask you could probably be OK here in a T-shirt and shorts.”

“你无法在这个大气层呼吸,但你可以想象自己包裹在一个充满地球大气的巨大的热气球或类似东西中。如果你有一个氧气面罩,你可能只需要穿着T恤和短裤就可以了。”

Louden’s speciality is exoplanets (those outside of our solar system that orbit around a sun), particularly one charismatically named HD 189733b. This deep-blue world some 63 light years away is a good candidate for being host to the most extreme known weather on another planet. It may look beautiful, but its weather conditions are apocalyptically awful. With winds of 5,000 miles per hour (the strongest recorded on Earth are 253mph) it’s also 20 times closer to its sun than we are, with atmospheric temperatures of 1,600 degrees centigrade – the level of molten lava.

劳登的专长是研究系外行星(太阳系之外围绕某个恒星运行的行星),尤其是一颗名为HD 189733的行星。这个深蓝色的星球距离地球约63光年,很有可能是外星球上的极端天气之最。它看起来可能很漂亮,但其天气状况却跟世界末日一般。那里的风速为每小时5000英里(约合8000公里。地球上有记录的最强风速为每小时253英里,约合407公里)。这颗行星与它的太阳的距离比地球与太阳的距离近20倍,因此大气温度为1600摄氏度,相当于熔岩的温度。

“Rocks on our planet would be vaporised into liquid or gas here,” says Louden. And it also rains molten glass. Sideways.

劳登说:“我们星球上的岩石在这个行星上会蒸发成液体或气体。”那里还会下熔化的玻璃雨,是斜着下的雨。

Louden says there are planets similar in size and mass to the Earth orbiting smaller M dwarf, or ’red dwarf’, stars. Whether they are habitable is another question. To be warm enough and have liquid water on its surface, a planet must be ‘tidally locked’ – as our Moon is to the Earth. This means you’ll get one side with permanent daylight and the other, perpetual night.

劳登说,有些行星在大小和质量上与地球相似,它们围绕着较小的M矮星(或“红矮星”)运行。这些行星是否适合生命居住则是另一个问题。为了保持足够的温度,及表面有液态水存在,这些行星必须距离其恒星不远,能被“潮汐锁定”,就像我们的月球对地球一样。这意味着这颗行星也就像月球一样,一半永远是白日,另一半永远是黑夜。

“When you make computer models you get hurricane-level events moving from the day to the night side. Any liquid water on the day side will evaporate into clouds, which will get blown to the night side, freeze and snow out. You’d have one side that’s a desert and one side that’s arctic.”

“通过计算机模式,你会看到在这个行星上,飓风是从白日一侧的半球刮向黑夜半球。白日半球的液态水会蒸发成云,然后被飓风刮到黑夜半球被冷冻成为落雪。所以这个星球一半是沙漠,另一半是北极。”

There really is no place like home.

看来,宇宙中没有什么地方比得上我们的地球家园。

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