Skip to Content
Uncategorized

Is Pluto Being Pulled by the Pioneer Effect?

If the Pioneer effect is real, then the outer planets ought to be tugged by it too.

Here’s an interesting take on the Pioneer effect–the mysterious deceleration that seems to be afflicting Pioneer 10 and 11 as they head out of the Solar System.

If the effect is real, it ought to influence the orbits of the outer planets. Pluto, in particular, ought top feel this force if it’s out there. In the last few years, a few astronomers have calculated what sort of influence the Pioneer effect should have on Pluto, concluding that it should produce significant periodic effects. The fact that we don’t see these effects means we can rule out the Pioneer effect as a phenomenon affecting the outer planets, they say. And that means it probably isn’t a fundamental effect but some kind of artifact.

But now it sees that it’s too early to be making these kinds of assertions. Gary Page from George Mason University in Virginia and a couple of pals say the calculations are less than convincing. They point out that our knowledge of Pluto’s orbit is based entirely on optical observations and so are far less well characterised than the nearer planets.

In fact, so poor is our knowledge of Pluto’s orbit that it is impossible to say whether it is being pulled by a Pioneer-like force or not.

Page and pals say:

“Of course, this does not mean that the Pioneer effect exists. It does mean that we cannot deny the existence of the Pioneer
effect on the basis of motions of the Pluto as currently known.”

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/0905.0030: How Well Do We Know The Orbits Of The Outer Planets?

Keep Reading

Most Popular

images created by Google Imagen
images created by Google Imagen

The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images

Google Brain has revealed its own image-making AI, called Imagen. But don't expect to see anything that isn't wholesome.

biomass with Charm mobile unit in background
biomass with Charm mobile unit in background

Inside Charm Industrial’s big bet on corn stalks for carbon removal

The startup used plant matter and bio-oil to sequester thousands of tons of carbon. The question now is how reliable, scalable, and economical this approach will prove.

AGI is just chatter for now concept
AGI is just chatter for now concept

The hype around DeepMind’s new AI model misses what’s actually cool about it

Some worry that the chatter about these tools is doing the whole field a disservice.

Peter Reinhardt
Peter Reinhardt

How Charm Industrial hopes to use crops to cut steel emissions

The startup believes its bio-oil, once converted into syngas, could help clean up the dirtiest industrial sector.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.