Pioneer anomaly solved? Yay for computer graphics!

Better modeling of how infrared radiation reflects off the different pieces of the spacecraft suggests that more heat from the power plant is bouncing off the back of the antenna dish than originally thought. That extra radiation is aimed away from Earth and is slowing Pioneer down.

So it looks like gravity isn’t broken after all … .

Good for me, I was on the right track.

Maybe, I’ll be made a fellow of AIAA?

I’m not holding my breath. :smiley:

Seriously, though, using rendering software to solve a problem is a classic sign of thinking
outside the box. And best of all, the solution was so obvious, why didn’t I think of that?

Congrats to them!

I really found the idea of Pioneer leaving the neighborhood interesting.
Did Pioneer transmist a nice picture of the sun and planets in the distance?
I’d really appreciate a link, thanks!

No, The Pioneers did not really have a camera like Voyager but scanned a picture in small bits of vertical stripes assembled together. The Voyager people (JPL) often criticized the Pioneer guys (Ames, TRW) for the poor images while the Pioneer people retorted their spacecraft’s particle measuring instruments were superior to Voyagers.

On the other hand, Messenger took a solar system portrait from the inside, near Mercury. Photo here. A portrait from the outside would probably be harder, because the inner planets would be lost in the glare of the sun.

Anybody else wondered what pioneers had antenna dishes? They were doing well to have healthy oxen.


I’m suprised this hasn’t been worked out before, wouldn’t the deceleration effect reduce in proportion to the decay of the RTGs? I’d have thought that would show up clearly in the data. I thought the odd thing about the Pioneer anomaly was that is was a constant deceleration. Am I missing something here?

No, but Voyager did. Here is the family portrait. It’s a series of 60 images stitched together. Mercury isn’t visible as it was too close to the sun, and Mars was lost due to a camera artifact. The images aren’t much to look at, but they do include one of my favorite astonomical images, the famous pale blue dot.

Thanks Yumblie, hadn’t seen the Messenger portrait before.

“Your antenna array has died of dysentery.”

I totally thought this was going to be about Conestoga wagons…


Reading this solution (on a different site) was the first time I’d actually heard of the Pioneer anomoly. I’m glad of that fact, otherwise it would have, presumably, been annoying me for some time.

That’s one down – now for the flyby anomaly

It HAS been annoying (or, at least, fascinating) me for some time. Hence my excitement that it seems to have been solved.

However, I do admit that I’m a little disappointed that it didn’t turn out to be another Michelson-Morley situation: a tiny, unexpected experimental deviation leading to a massive rethinking of physics. :frowning:

Bumped for relevance.

This article goes into much more detail about how the anomaly was resolved. And makes the case that archiving data, no matter how mundane it may seem at the time, can provide answers in a way no one ever anticipated.

I thought we were going to find out what happened to the Roanoke colony.

So, I could get better gas mileage by turning off my car’s headlights? :smiley:

You’re not the only one.