If You Understand The Anomalies You Understand The System
Can we truly claim to know a system when certain anomalies appear to exist within that system?
This is an intriguing question; however, once identified, how do we know the discrepancies are true anomalies, and not common modelling/experimental errors (i.e. human, equipment, research technique, etc)?
Whichever they are, investigations are essential. History has shown that providing solutions to anomalous data has helped to progress science in many ways, and on occasions has led, serendipitously, to new undiscovered phenomena, research avenues and paradigm shifts—the anomalous orbits of Uranus and Mercury being two examples.
Commenting on further gravitational oddities within the solar system, Professor Lorenzo Iorio (University of Bari), highlights eight examples that may or may not require deeper investigation: ‘a) Possible anomalous advances of planetary perihelia; b) Unexplained orbital residuals of a recently discovered moon of Uranus (Mab); c) The lingering unexplained secular increase of the eccentricity of the orbit of the Moon; d) The Faint Young Sun Paradox; e) The secular decrease of the mass parameter of the Sun; f) The Flyby Anomaly; g) The Pioneer Anomaly; and h) The anomalous secular increase of the astronomical unit’.
All of these phenomena require reconciling with current theory in some degree—although, some more than others. The pioneer anomaly, g), has recently found a degree of acceptable non-gravitational explanation, through the use of conventional thermal dynamics. However: ‘there are still researchers looking for unconventional solutions in terms of fundamental physics’, highlights Iorio.
This continued research activity links directly to f) which still remains a genuine anomaly, evading all explanation using conventional physics. Also, c) may see eventual elimination due to better modelling techniques in the future; however, along with h), if a critical explanation does not materialise a modification of GR, or a completely new theory, might be required.
Other examples such as d) and e), in the light of recently discovered Axion behaviour, could be explained by, as of yet, unknown dark matter processes within the Sun, and a), b) and f) should come under closer scrutiny when current and future satellite missions become operational (i.e. New Horizons, Uranus Pathfinder, JWST, STE-QUEST, etc).
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