27 thoughts on “The Pioneer Anomaly”

  1. Well, if you RTFA they almost certainly aren’t going to claim non-Newtonian gravity. It is almost explicit, or at least strongly hints, that they think it’s thermal.

  2. After I read part-way through the comments and saw someone tell someone else to “communicate with Marduk on an astral plane until your fantasy world ends in 2012”, I looked at the article date. It was published in December, 2010.

    If the scientists in the article were 6 months from publishing their results, what was their conclusion? Surely there has been a follow up in the last 32 months?

    1. By the same token, how did this article all of a sudden come back to life 32 months later to be posted as “new” around the blogosphere?

    2. If you search on Slava Turyshev Viktor Toth the first hit is a 2012 arxiv abstract of their published article. To quote:

      “We find no statistically significant difference between the two estimates and conclude that once the thermal recoil force is properly accounted for, no anomalous acceleration remains.”

      Which would explain the lack of interest in following up the story.

  3. Relativity says that time down here near the terrestrial planets passes slightly slower than out where Pioneer I & II are, so some temporal issues are to be expected.

    1. That is taken into account. Deep space telemetry guys paid attention in physics class. They have to take into account that light bends around the sun as well. This is the problem. They have applied all known relativistic modifiers and it still comes out wrong. Now they are looking at what is basically solar wind and the pressure from the reflected radio waves from earth and sunlight, plus the thrust from the thermal radiation… saying this brings it back into the error bars. OK, I’ll buy that for a dollar. The alternatives are: Relativity, Gravity, Time, or the Speed of Light doesn’t work the way we thought. Take your pick of which Can of Fundamental Physics Worms you want to open.

      1. Let’s open up the speed of light can of worms. Rearranging some of the fundamental formulas involving the Planck constant can make h and pi disappear from the equations giving us GM=tc^3. Put another way, if the mass of the universe is a constant and the gravitational constant is a constant and age of the universe is not a constant, then the speed of light cannot be a constant. Alternatively, if c is a constant then one or both of G and M must be a variable function with respect to time.

  4. Off topic, but this Fox Tampa story was kind of interesting.

    CAPE CANAVERAL – Now that NASA’s fleet of space shuttles has been retired, developers want to build a new commercial spaceport near the Kennedy Space Center. But the future could collide with the past.

    They seem to have hit the southernmost British plantation in North America.

  5. This has been talked about for a while now in the physics community. The outside world of real people and spouses pretty much ignores us while we are looking into these odd anomalies. So it doesn’t surprise me that they don’t catch something like this for a few years.
    Lots of different ideas have been batted around, personally I like the idea that the speed of light is actually slowing down as a function of time.
    That is the speed of light is slowing down as the inverse cubed root of the age of the universe. If your meter stick is contracting (the meter is defined by c) then there is an apparent increase in speed. Now days, with t being about 14.5 billion years, that makes that change tiny. However, in the early universe this would have looked different. More like a huge expansion of the universe. From what I can tell this matches the supernova and CMB data better than all that hockus pokus about dark energy/matter. Maybe I just like it because I understand it and I never could understand the dark energy argument. This also answers several other small nitpicking loose ends like, The Dim Young Sun Paradox, and The Receding Moon Paradox. But it would cut all those Dark Energy/Matter grants, so don’t expect this idea to gain a whole lot of big science backing.

    1. Not sure what is meant by the “Receding Moon Paradox”. The moon is receding from the Earth due to energy loss from the tides, but maybe you are referring to some other effect?

      1. I’m no expert but I believe to has to do with the two different ways that the moons distance is measured. One way is time a laser bouncing off the reflector we left on the moon, and the other through the gravitational influence on sedimentary rock (i assume this is done with tides or something). anyway the rocks tell us it is receding at about 2.5 cm/year and the light tells us it is 3.5 cm/year. I could be wrong on those numbers but it is something like that. Anyway, the paradox part is that the error bars for both those are something like 0.2 cm/yr. If you apply the correction on c the answer from both are within the error bars of each other.

      2. Oh i know it is a nitpick but, the moon is gaining angular momentum from the earth’s axial rotation through tide induced drag, not losing energy. Damn orbital mechanics, you can’t get a higher orbit by losing energy.

        1. Incorrect. Total system angular momentum is a constant. Energy dissipation is what rules. Just like on Explorer-1. Locally, energy may be displaced from one reservoir to another, but globally, the only avenue for change is through energy radiating away from the system.

    2. I should really read all the comments before posting. Yeah, Ryan, I think Louise Riofrio is on to something with that equation.

  6. I hate it when, sometimes, the page does not load properly, and comments are not nested. In any case, this is in reply to Ryan @ August 23rd, 2013 at 6:51 am. I always thought the VSL theories offered a more plausible avenue to explain expansion of the early universe than cosmic inflation, too. Enjoyed Magueijo’s book, even if he did have a bit of a chip on his shoulder, but haven’t heard much about this lately.

  7. My interest in this article centered entirel around the lengths to which Toth went to get good data, then analyze it exhaustively. He was a Pioneer Anomaly skeptic. It is interesting how even one of the original “discoverers” of the anomaly was willing to help. Though PE supporters criticize his work, they admit their own bias.

    So what’s the difference between this and AGW? For one thing, there is no left-wing power grab available as a result…

    We need Toth to look at the CRU data.

  8. I commend these gents for doing all of this data research. However, moving from any old data compilation program to a new one, say C++ is always fraught to errors. I know (moving from Cobol to newer systems — nothing was perfect).

    Nevertheless, I think Ryan and Minchau are on to the right idea. Possibly, scientists can remove the idea of “dark energy” and “dark matter” for which there appears to be no answer except for mathematical plugs.

    I am no longer a scientist for many years — but I follow all of this with keen interest. The opinion expressed is just my thinking, for what it is worth.

    Notwithstanding, the thermal answer may be the answer. Having followed this issue, I have always thought so — but it is yet to be resolved.

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