NASA Baffled by force acting on probes
- URL to an interesting article in MSNBC
(If this was a movie, this sort of thing would be part of the introduction,
with Twilight Zone music in the background)
First few paragraphs
"Mysteriously, five spacecraft that flew past the Earth have each displayed
unexpected anomalies in their motions.
These newfound enigmas join the so-called "_Pioneer anomaly_
(http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/070327_scitues_pioneeranom.html) " as hints that
unexplained forces may appear to act on spacecraft.
A decade ago, after rigorous analyses, anomalies were seen with the
identical Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft as they hurtled out of the solar system. Both
seemed to experience a tiny but unexplained constant acceleration toward the
A host of explanations have been bandied about for the Pioneer anomaly. At t
imes these are rooted in conventional science — perhaps leaks from the
spacecraft have affected their trajectories. At times these are rooted in more
speculative physics — maybe the _law of gravity_
(http://www.livescience.com/strangenews/070810_gm_gravity.html) itself needs to be modified.
Now Jet Propulsion Laboratory astronomer John Anderson and his colleagues —
who originally helped uncover the Pioneer anomaly — have discovered that five
spacecraft each raced either a tiny bit faster or slower than expected when
they flew past the Earth en route to other parts of the solar system.
‘Humble and perplexed’
The researchers looked at six deep-space probes — Galileo I and II to
Jupiter, the NEAR mission to the asteroid Eros, the Rosetta probe to a comet,
_Cassini to Saturn_
(http://www.space.com/php/multimedia/imagegallery/igviewer.php?imgid=3986&gid=287) , and the Messenger craft to Mercury. Each spacecraft
flew past our planet to either gain or lose orbital energy in their quests to
reach their eventual targets.
In five of the six flybys, the scientists have confirmed anomalies.
"I am feeling both humble and perplexed by this," said Anderson, who is now
working as a retiree. "There is something very strange going on with
spacecraft motions. We have no convincing explanation for either the Pioneer anomaly
or the flyby anomaly."
In the one probe the researchers did not confirm a noticeable anomaly with,
Messenger, the spacecraft approached the Earth at about latitude 31 degrees
north and receded from the Earth at about latitude 32 degrees south. "This
near-perfect symmetry about the equator seemed to result in a very small
velocity change, in contrast to the five other flybys," Anderson explained — so
small no anomaly could be confirmed."
(The avalanche has started and the pebbles don't get to vote)
**************Ideas to please picky eaters. Watch video on AOL Living.
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