the pioneer effect


Unsolved problems in physics: What causes the apparent residual Sunward acceleration of the Pioneer spacecraft?

In 1972 and 1973 two unmanned spacecraft called Pioneer 10 and 11 left the earth in order to investigate Jupiter and the outer solar system. Pioneer 10 has become the first artificial object to leave the solar system. According to the Pioneer Nasa webpage the last signal of Pioneer 11 was on 30 September 1995, when the last transmission from the spacecraft was received, but the Pioneer 10…

“…weak signal continued to be tracked by the DSN as part of an advanced concept study of communication technology in support of NASA’s future interstellar probe mission. The power source on Pioneer 10 finally degraded to the point where the signal to Earth dropped below the threshold for detection in its latest contact attempt on 7 February, 2003. Pioneer 10 will continue to coast silently as a ghost ship through deep space into interstellar space, heading generally for the red star Aldebaran, which forms the eye of Taurus (The Bull). Aldebaran is about 68 light years away and it will take Pioneer over 2 million years to reach”

Despite this dreadful end, the two pioneer spacecraft already collected enough data in order to confuse manhood:
Their collected data displays a deviation from their expected trajectories – the socalled pioneer effect or anomaly.

Or in other words: by the sofar investigated pioneer-sent-data it seems that they both were experiencing an ununderstood force towards the sun. A similar effect seems also to exist for other unmanned spacecraft like Galileo and Ulysses, however – also here – the sofar investigated data is not sufficient for any confirmations.

Thanks to the Planetary Society, which is wellknown for their famous DIY-extraterrestial life search SETI@home, at least the Pioneer data collected on magnetic tape could now be restored in a more modern way and can now be investigated further.

There had been several attempts to explain the pioneer effect. Possible explanations for this strange force are apparently:

  • observational errors
  • a real deceleration not accounted for in the current model
  • new physics
  • So the effect could be caused by such profane things as miscalculations, or by unpredicted technical effects — like gas leakage, or it could be that there is a more fundamental misunderstanding of the underlying physics. So the data has to be collected and analyzed very very carefully: It might be a hint towards new physics.

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