Past Seminars Seminários Já Decorridos 2009

The Pioneer Anomaly explained: Thermal modeling of the Pioneer spacecraft

By: Paulo J.S. Gil
From: IST
At: Complexo Interdisciplinar, Anfiteatro
[2009-11-18] 12:00

The analysis of the radiometric data of the Pioneer spacecraft revealed the presence of an unexplained acceleration that became known as the Pioneer Anomaly. It was first put forward by Anderson et al. and subsequent analyses at JPL achieved a definite value of a = (8.74 ± 1.33) × 10-10 m/s2. Many possible explanations for this phenomenon have been put forward. An initial attempt to account for all systematic effects failed to convince the scientific community, raising the possibility of a previously unknown fundamental physical effect. The issue of thermal effects has however been raised again as a possible conventional explanation for the Pioneer anomaly. In this work we provide a careful and systematic analysis of the physics involved in thermal radiation and develop a method to compute its influence on the trajectories of interplanetary spacecraft. First results strongly indicate that the Pioneer anomaly can be explained by thermal effects.