The Discovery and Resolution of the Pioneer Anomaly
Viktor T. Toth
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
3:30PM-4:30PM
HP4351

For the past decade, Viktor Toth played a pivotal role in the research, led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, of the anomalous acceleration of the 40-year old Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft and the possible breakdown of Einstein's laws of gravity at great distances from the Sun. His presentation begins with a brief historical overview of these remarkable space missions, including original plans to use the trajectory of these spacecraft to detect gravitational anomalies in the outer solar system and the discovery of a constant anomalous acceleration. He discusses the significance of the possibility of using man-made instruments in the solar system to detect deviations from standard gravity theory. Alas, the recent, most detailed study of the anomaly points to a mundane cause, heat emitted by the spacecraft and the resulting recoil force. This confirms Einstein's predictions in the solar system at a level of accuracy that is not likely to be achieved again for decades. The chapter of the Pioneer Anomaly thus seems to be drawing to a close, though some questions remain.