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Mars has a vast underground reservoir of water, scientists find in major breakthrough in search for alien life

火星上发现巨大的地下蓄水层,科学家在寻找外星生命方面取得重大突破



Scientists have found a vast lake underneath the surface of Mars, in what they are hailing as a hugely significant breakthrough in the search for alien life on the planet.

科学家们在火星地表下发现了一个巨大的湖泊,他们正在为此欢呼,这个地下湖的发现成为寻找这颗星球上外星生命的巨大重大突破。

The discovery marks the first time a stable body of water has been detected on Mars, resolving a decades long debate about whether it has any water at all. It has long been assumed that if water was not present on the red planet, it would almost certainly not be capable of sustaining life.

这一发现标志着第一次在火星上探测到稳定的水体,解决了几十年来关于它是否有任何水的争论。长期以来人们一直认为,如果这颗红色星球上没有水,那它几乎肯定无法维持生命的存在。

However, according to scientists responsible for the breakthrough, the vast lake lies underneath Mars’s southern pole and stretches 20km across.

据负责该研究的科学家称,这个巨大的湖泊位于火星南极的下方,绵延20公里。

“If these researchers are right, this is the first time we’ve found evidence of a large water body on Mars,” said Cassie Stuurman, a geophysicist at the University of Texas who found signs of an enormous Martian ice deposit in 2016.

“如果这些研究人员是正确的,这将是我们第一次在火星上找到大量水体的证据,”德克萨斯大学的地球物理学家Cassie Stuurman说道,他在2016年发现了火星上存在巨大冰层的迹象。

Mars long ago was warmer and wetter, possessing significant bodies of water, as evidenced by dry lake beds and river valleys on its surface. There had been some signs of liquid water currently on Mars, including disputed evidence of water activity on Martian slopes, but not stable bodies of water.

因为火星地表上有干涸的湖床和河谷,表明很久以前火星温暖而潮湿,拥有大量的水。此前火星上有液态水的迹象,包括火星斜坡上有水活动等有争议的证据,但那些都不是稳定的水体。

The discovery was found by scientists using the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (Marsis) instrument on the Mars Express spacecraft. That instruments sends out radar pulses that penetrate the surface and ice caps on Mars, and measures the radio waves when they come back to the spacecraft.

科学家在火星快车号探测器上使用先进的雷达仪器进行地下和电离层探测得到了这一发现。这些仪器发出的雷达脉冲穿过火星地表和冰帽,并测量反馈回探测器的无线电波。



“This kind of environment is not exactly your ideal vacation, or a place where fish would swim,” Orosei added. “But there are terrestrial organisms that can survive and thrive, in fact, in similar environments. There are microorganisms on Earth that are capable of surviving even in ice.”

“这种环境并不是你理想的假期胜地,也不是鱼儿游泳的地方,”Orosei补充道。 “但是,在类似的环境中,有一些地球生物可以生存和繁衍。地球上有些微生物即使在冰里也能存活。”

Scott Hubbard, a professor of astronautics at Stanford University who served as Nasa’s first Mars program director in 2000, called it “tremendously exciting”.

在2000年担任美国宇航局的第一位火星项目主管的斯坦福大学航天学教授斯科特•哈伯德,称这个消息“非常令人激动”。

“Our mantra back then was ‘follow the water’. That was the one phrase that captured everything,” Hubbard said. “So this discovery, if it stands, is just thrilling because it’s the culmination of that philosophy.”

“那时我们的信念是'跟着水走'。这是寻找生命最关键的一句话,”哈伯德说。“所以这个发现,如果站得住脚,将是惊心动魄的,因为它是这个信条的高潮。”

It is even colder on Mars than it is in the Antarctic and Greenland, making the discovery of liquid water even more surprising.

火星上比在地球南极和格陵兰岛更冷,使得液态水的发现更加令人惊讶。

The water itself is likely to be a briny sludge. The salt that makes that brine is also probably the reason there is liquid water at all, since it helps melt the otherwise icy water in the same way grit is used to remove snow from streets.

这个水本身很可能是一种盐水污泥。制造这种卤水的盐也可能是导致存在液态水的原因,因为盐有助于融化冰冻的水,就像用砂砾去除街道上的积雪一样。

“This is a stunning result that suggests water on Mars is not a temporary trickle like previous discoveries but a persistent body of water that provides the conditions for life for extended periods of time,” said Alan Duffy, an astronomer from Swinburne University and the lead scientist of Australia’s Science Channel.

“这是一个令人惊叹的结果,表明火星上的水不是像以前发现的那种短暂细流,而是持久的水体,它为生命提供了长时间的生存条件,”斯威本大学的天文学家兼澳大利亚科学频道首席科学家Alan Duffy说道。

There is nothing particularly special about the area where the water was found – it is simply the region on Mars where the radar that made the detection is most sensitive. That means that there could be similar deposits under the ground all the way across Mars.

发现水的这个区域没有什么特别之处 - 它只是火星上的一个地方,使得进行探测的雷达最敏感。这意味着整个火星的地下都可能存在类似的沉积物。

It remains to be seen if more subsurface reservoirs of water will be found or whether the newly discovered one is some sort of quirk, Orosei said.

Orosei说,还有待观察是否会发现更多的地下水体,或者新发现的水体是否只是某种巧合。

If others are detected and a network of subglacial lakes exists like on Earth, he said, that could indicate liquid water has persisted for millions of years or even dating back to 3.5 billion years ago when Mars was a more hospitable planet.

他说,如果发现其它水体被发现,类似地球上的冰下湖泊网就存在,这可能表明液态水持续存在了数百万年,甚至可追溯到35亿年前,当时火星是一个更宜居的星球。