Oxygen 氧

Amateur Astronomer - - 宇宙奥秘 -

Oxygen is one of the most important elements on Earth. It makes up about one-fifth of the mass of the atmosphere, nine-tenths of the mass of water, and two-thirds of the mass of the human body. It’s a by-product of plant life, and a necessity for animal life. And it combines with other elements to make everything from water to rocks.

氧元素是地球上最重要的元素之一。它约占大气质量的五分之一,占水质量的十分之九,占人体质量的三分之二。它是植物生命的副产品,也是动物生活的必需品。它与其他元素相结合,构成了从水到岩石等各种东西。

All of the oxygen atoms on Earth — and throughout the universe, for that matter — were made by stars.

地球上的所有氧原子——其实不只是地球,整个宇宙中的氧原子都是由恒星创造的。

When a star is born, it’s made mainly of hydrogen, the simplest chemical element, which was forged in the Big Bang. For most of its life, the star fuses the hydrogen in its core to make helium. At the end of its life, a star as massive as the Sun or heavier fuses the helium to make heavier elements. A star like the Sun makes carbon and oxygen, while heavier stars make even more elements — all the way up to iron.

当一颗恒星诞生时,它主要是由氢构成的,这种最简单的化学元素,是在大爆炸中锻造而成的。在生命的大部分时间里,恒星都将其内核的氢熔为氦。在生命的最后阶段,一颗像太阳那么大的恒星,或者是比太阳更大些的恒星,会燃烧氦而形成更重些的元素。像太阳这样的恒星会产生碳和氧,而较重的恒星则会形成更重的元素,直至铁元素。

Over the 14-billion-year history of the universe, stars have made more oxygen than any other element, so it now accounts for about one percent of all the atoms in the universe.

宇宙有着140亿年的历史,恒星们已经制造出的氧元素比其他的元素都要多,因而,目前氧原子占整个宇宙中所有原子的百分之一。

When a star dies, it expels much of its gas into space. Stars like the Sun do so in a fairly gentle process. More massive stars do it more explosively, blasting out debris at a few percent of the speed of light. This mixture of elements can then be incorporated into new stars and planets — and at least in the case of our own Earth, into living organisms as well.

当一颗恒星消逝,它会将大部分气体排入宇宙空间。像太阳这样的恒星会以相当温和的方式完成这一过程。更多的大质量恒星会爆发得更剧烈,会以百分之几光速的速度喷射出残骸。这些混合的元素能够被合并到新的恒星和行星中去,而且至少在我们的地球上,它们也能够融入生命体中。

我们生存在物质世界中,周围成千上万的物质都是由元素构成的,而这些元素的产生与恒星的生命过程密不可分。上图中的狼蛛星云就是著名的“恒星育儿所”。图片来源:NASA,ESA,Hubble Space Telescope

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