Something strange is tugging at America's oldest spacecraft. As the Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 probes head towards distant stars, scientists have discovered that the craft -- launched more than 30 years ago -- appear to be in the grip of a mysterious force that is holding them back as they sweep out of the solar system. \nSome researchers say unseen "dark matter" may permeate the universe and that this is affecting the Pioneers' passage. Others say flaws in our understanding of the laws of gravity best explain the crafts' wayward behavior. \nAs a result, scientists are to press a European Space Agency (Esa) meeting, called Cosmic Visions, in Paris this week for backing for a mission that would follow the Pioneers and pinpoint the cause of their erratic movements. \nThe strange behaviour of the Pioneers -- which swept by Jupiter and Saturn in the 1980's -- was discovered by John Anderson and Slava Turyshev of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena and Michael Martin Neito of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. \nThey had been tracking the probes using the giant dishes of NASA's Deep Space Network. By the time the two spaceships had swept beyond Pluto, they noted there were persistent anomalies in their trajectories. \nEvery time they looked the Pioneers were in the wrong place. The effect was not large, but it was significant to draw the attention of the scientists. The two agreed that something more than the Sun's gravity appeared to have a grip on the craft. \nThe reasons for the anomaly have caused a rift among physicists, however. Some believe the effect may simply be flaws with the probes. Gas from fuel tanks may be leaking from them, slowing their passages, say some astronomers. "Unless there is really good evidence to the contrary, we should stick to simple ideas like these and not go around blaming strange new types of particle or flaws in general relativity," said Professor Martin Barstow, of Leicester University. \nBut this view has been rejected by Anderson. "It's hard to imagine such a leak happening on both probes at the same time in such a way as to produce an identical acceleration," he said. \nAnd most scientists back him. "The effect is real," said Bernard Haisch of the California Institute for Physics and Astrophysics. \nOne proposal put forward is that Newton's idea that the force of gravity weakens as distance increases may be incorrect over very large spaces, and may drop off over very long distances. \n"It is time to settle the Pioneer issue with a new deep-space mission that will test for, and decide on, the anomaly," Anderson, Turyshev and Nieto state in Physics World. \nBy fitting a Pioneer follow-up probe with new measuring equipment, navigational device and communications gear, it should be possible to discover if the probes are in the grip of a new force of nature.
GRAPHIC: NY TIMES
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May 10 to May 16 Many elderly people wept as the crowds flooded Raohe Street (饒河街) on May 11, 1987. It had been over a decade since the street was this busy, the Minsheng Daily (民生報) reported. Locals set up altars along the way, praying that the grand opening of the Raohe Street Night Market would reverse their fortunes. It was Taipei’s first night market with government-mandated traffic control hours, banning cars from 5pm to midnight. “This is a great way to manage a night market, and other locales should follow suit,” the article stated. There were still some kinks to
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