Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Emerging Technology from the arXiv

A View from Emerging Technology from the arXiv

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.

  • May 7, 2009

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?

The race is on to define the new blockchain era. Get a leg up at Business of Blockchain 2019.

Register now
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to MIT Technology Review.
  • Print + All Access Digital {! insider.prices.print_digital !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    The best of MIT Technology Review in print and online, plus unlimited access to our online archive, an ad-free web experience, discounts to MIT Technology Review events, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

    6 bi-monthly issues of print + digital magazine

    10% discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

    Ad-free website experience

    The Download: newsletter delivered daily

  • All Access Digital {! insider.prices.digital !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    The digital magazine, plus unlimited site access, our online archive, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

    Digital magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

    The Download: newsletter delivered daily

  • Print Subscription {! insider.prices.print_only !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six print issues per year plus The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Print magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    The Download: newsletter delivered daily

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.