NASA宣布两个研究早期太阳系的任务

2017-01-05 09:21:07 来源: 中国科技网 作者: 张微编译

本周三,NASA宣布两个无人飞船探索小行星任务,目的是研究太阳系历史中最早的时期之一。

它们已经被命名为露西(Lucy)和普赛克(Psyche),NASA计划于2021和2013年分别进行发射。

NASA想要详细了解的时期是太阳诞生后不到1000万年的时代。

露西任务——以1974年埃塞俄比亚发现的著名的、重要的古人类化石命名,这个任务包括发送一个机器人飞船研究木星的特洛伊小行星带。这些小行星被认为是太阳系历史早期的遗迹。

露西任务的主要负责人哈罗德 利维森说:“这是极难得的机会。”

“因为特洛伊是原始物质(形成外行星的物质)的残余物,它们保留着解读太阳系历史的重要线索。露西,就像以它的名字命名的古人类化石一样,将彻底改变我们对自身起源的理解。”

同时,普赛克任务的目的是探索一个巨型的,独特的金属小行星,名字为普赛克16,它与太阳的距离,是地球距离太阳的三倍左右。

大多数小行星是岩石或冰组成,但是,普赛克16主要由铁和镍构成,与地球的核心类似。

NASA说,科学家们正在考虑这种可能性,即普赛克16可能是一个早期行星的暴露核心,这个早期行星像火星一样大,但是由于数十亿年前的猛烈碰撞,导致其岩石外层脱离。

该任务将帮助科学家们了解,在它们的早期历史中,行星和其它天体如何形成分层的,如地核、地幔、地壳。

“这是一个探索新世界的机会,不是岩石或冰小行星,而是金属小行星,”普赛克任务的主要负责人,美国亚利桑那州大学的林迪-埃尔金斯-坦顿说。

“普赛克16是目前太阳系已知天体中,唯一的金属小行星,这也是人类想要研究核心的唯一一个研究对象。我们可以通过研究外太空来了解内宇宙空间,” 埃尔金斯-坦顿说。(张微编译)

以下为英文原文:

NASA announces two missions to study early solar system

The US space agency NASA on Wednesday announced two unmanned missions to asteroids designed to study one of the earliest eras in the history of the solar system.

They have been baptized Lucy and Psyche, and NASA hopes to launch them in 2021 and 2023, respectively.

The period NASA wants to learn more about is an era less than 10 million years after the birth of the sun.

The Lucy mission—named for a famous, critical hominin fossil set found in Ethiopia in 1974—will involve sending a robotic spacecraft to study Jupiter's so-called Trojan asteroids. These are thought to be relics of a much earlier era in the history of the solar system.

"This is a unique opportunity," said Harold Levison, principal investigator of the Lucy mission.

"Because the Trojans are remnants of the primordial material that formed the outer planets, they hold vital clues to deciphering the history of the solar system. Lucy, like the human fossil for which it is named, will revolutionize the understanding of our origins."

Meanwhile the Psyche mission aims to explore a huge, one-of-a-kind metal asteroid, called 16 Psyche, that is about three times farther away from the sun than the Earth is.

Most asteroids are rocky or icy but this one is thought to be mostly of iron and nickel, like the Earth's core.

NASA said scientists are considering the possibility that Psyche could be an exposed core of an early planet as large as Mars but which shed its rocky outer layers due to violent collisions billions of years ago.

The mission will help scientists learn how planets and other bodies separated into layers like cores, mantles and crusts early in their histories.

"This is an opportunity to explore a new type of world - not one of rock or ice, but of metal," said Psyche principal investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton, of Arizona State University in Tempe.

"16 Psyche is the only known object of its kind in the solar system, and this is the only way humans will ever visit a core. We learn about inner space by visiting outer space," Elkins-Tanton said.

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