Regulus

轩辕十四

Amateur Astronomer - - 宇宙奥秘 -

Regulus is one of the brightest stars in the night sky, so people have been looking at it since the beginning. And astronomers have been studying it since the invention of the telescope. And it’s quite close — less than 80 light-years away. So you might think that we’ve known all the important details about it for a long time.

轩辕十四是夜空中最亮的星之一,从亘古时代人们就一直关注着它。在望远镜发明之后,天文学家们也一直研究着它。况且,它离我们很近,距离我们小于80光年。所以你很可能会想当然地以为我们早已知晓关于它的所有重要细节。

You’d be wrong. Astronomers continue to learn about the system. Less than a decade ago, for example, they found that the bright star we see as Regulus has a close companion. That star tells us a lot about the bright star’s history.

那你可就错了。天文学家们一直努力探寻轩辕十四系统。比如,不到十年前,他们发现那颗我们一直看作是轩辕十四的亮星还有一颗亲密的伴星。这颗伴星告诉了我们很多关于亮星轩辕十四的历史。

The companion is small, faint, and quite close to the bright star, which is known as Regulus A. So it’s impossible to see the companion directly. Instead, astronomers detected it by measuring the system’s individual wavelengths of light. They reveal a slight shift in the star’s motion caused by the gravitational tug of the companion.

这颗伴星渺小而昏暗,离那颗被称为“轩辕十四A”的明亮恒星又太近。所以很难直接看见这颗伴星。相反,天文学家们是通过测量这一系统中光的不同波长才发现伴星的。他们发现了在伴星重力拖曳下引起的恒星的微弱位移。

The companion is a white dwarf — the tiny corpse of a once-normal star. That star had to be born with more mass than Regulus A, so it aged faster. It puffed up, then dumped much of its outer layers of gas onto Regulus A. That made Regulus A bigger and hotter, and it made the star spin much faster.

这颗伴星是一颗白矮星,是一颗曾经存在的恒星的小“尸体”。形成白矮星的那颗恒星最初有比“轩辕十四A”更大的质量,也正因为如此它才更加迅速地步入衰老,首先是体积膨胀,之后其将外层的大量气体倾倒给了“轩辕十四A”。这让“轩辕十四A”变得更大也更灼热了,同时也让其旋转更加迅速了。

That discovery shows that there’s still a lot to learn about the stars — even the ones we think we know well.

这样的发现也宣示了恒星还有很多值得研究的地方,哪怕是那些我们认为已经足够了解的恒星也是如此。

图片中的亮星就是轩辕十四,很多年来我们都把它看成是一颗星,直到发现它还有一颗亲密的伴星才发现我们之前的认知完全错了。而静谧的夜空中,那些看似熟悉的恒星又隐藏了多少目前还不为所知的秘密呢?图片来源:C hris C ook (C ookP hoto.com )

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