PTE真题阅读训练:The Earth Next Door


Tuomi was the first to see hints of the world in 2013 while planet-hunting with Anglada-Escudé. As relatively junior researchers, the two astronomers had struggled to secure prized telescope time to search for planets and instead were seeking overlooked worlds by carefully reanalyzing public data released by other teams. Proxima b’s faint signal first appeared in several years’ worth of combined observations from two planet-hunting spectrographs, HARPS and UVES, which are operated on telescopes in Chile by the European Southern Observatory (ESO). Both HARPS and UVES had monitored Proxima Centauri for years, watching for the star being tugged to and fro by any unseen pirouetting planets, but the teams running them had claimed no detections. Orbiting worlds impose a distinctive periodic wobble on their stars, sometimes so gently that they sway their suns slower than the pace of a crawling baby. The 11-day wobble Tuomi thought he saw in the combined HARPS and UVES Proxima Centauri data was slightly stronger—1.4 meters per second, an adult’s average walking speed. Along with several colleagues, Tuomi and Anglada-Escudé quickly wrote and submitted a paper reporting the potential planetary signals.

But many things can move a star. For example, heaving waves and vortices of magnetized plasma flowing on its surface can mimic or mask the wobble caused by a small planet. And even the best planet-finding spectrographs are subject to calibration errors that can cause further confusion. In 2012 the HARPS team had announced a wobble possibly caused by a small rocky world around Alpha Centauri B—but that planet ultimately proved illusory, a phantom produced by starspots, stellar rotation and questionable statistical analysis. It was a cautionary tale: If the HARPS team had been fooled by Alpha Centauri B, one of the most quiescent stars in the sky, hopes seemed slim for finding planets around neighboring Proxima, which continually erupts with “superflares” that can easily scuttle careful observations.


Spectrograph : n. 光谱仪,摄谱仪。

Pirouetting:n. (芭蕾舞)以脚尖旋转。

Plasma: n. [等离子]等离子体,血浆;[矿物],深绿玉髓。

Phantom:n. 幽灵,幻影,虚位。

Quiescent: adj. 静止的,不活动的,沉寂的。



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