The New Aether
The Newtonian concept of the mechanism behind the planetary orbits is that the centripetal force due to their motion around the sun is predominantly balanced by the combined gravitational attraction of their mass and that of the sun's.
An astronomy lecturer once remarked, "Einstein's genius was being able to move away from the Newtonian view that gravity is a force - it is not. Mass tells spacetime how to curve. Spacetime tells mass how to move. Gravity is an effect you observe in the dimensions we can sense."
Einstein found that it was more accurate to mathematically predict the positions of the planets by regarding gravity not as a force but as a curvature of Space itself. The planets are following their natural trajectory and, as such, no force is acting on them. If you think of space as curved then the path of the planets can be considered as travelling in a straight line i.e.following the local geodesic path.
The big question is what makes space curve in the first place? Well you could answer that matter causes it, or, it is a natural property of matter. True, but then you would have to ask, "Why does matter cause space to curve?". An answer to that is covered elsewhere on this site but let me say that I'm sure Einstein used a type of mental imagery to assist him developing his theories and this imagery was originally based on the concept of the aether or something very similar.
The motion of planets in solar systems and the stars that make up galaxies have a natural order to their motion. Generally, they travel in more or less the same plane, with the same direction of rotation about a common axis. The movement of whatever determines our perceived spatial dimensions also determines the direction and speed that 'rest' matter will naturally tend to follow. An energy flow or solar maelstrom, a legacy from the creation of the solar system, is assisting the mechanics of the respective orbital paths and the closer to the sun the more significant this effect is.
A consequence of this, I suggest that if the earth was moving round the sun with exactly the same speed in the same plane but in the opposite direction, contrary to this natural order, then our orbital path would not mirror our current orbit.
Quite easy. Set up two satellites in orbit round the sun midway between say Mars and the Earth, one going one way and the other going the other way at the same speed and, obviously, in the planetary plane. Then wait and see what happens. If after their 'year' they cross paths at exactly the same point that they started and go round again following the same route then the theory is disproved. The belief is that the satellite following the retrograde orbit would slow down slightly and move closer towards the sun.
Being even more adventurous, you could have an additional two satellites but going at right angles to the planetary plane all with identical speeds. According to present day thinking, they should all cross each other simultaneously and close to each other.
The concept of Motional Energy as the dominant factor in determining, for want of a better description, 'space curvature' dictates that the satellites will be out of phase. The satellites orbiting at a right angles to the planetary plane will precess round the sun. If you extrapolated this effect, probably almost forever, one of these satellites would end up orbiting in line with the planetary orbits.
Why does the orbit of Mercury precess?
The significant reason has been attributed to the combined gravitational effect of the other planets in some way giving Mercury a little nudge. Presumably, from time to time, they would give Mercury a nudge in the wrong direction depending on the respective positions of the planets.
Another factor, in some part, may be due to the sun's observed rotation distorting the high gravitational field. The effect is commonly referred to as 'frame-dragging' but is considered far too small to account for the observed discrepancy unless there is a large gradient in the sun's unobserved internal speed of rotation.
Yet another factor to take into account is the sun's reducing mass as a result of the energy emission. Again, considered comparatively far too small to effect Mercury's precession.
Apart from planetary influences the next major contribution to Mercury's orbital anomaly will be the movement of the geodesic map caused by the solar maelstrom as described above.
The Pioneer Anomaly
In brief, the Pioneer Anomaly is a deviation in the trajectories of various unmanned satellites at the outer regions of the solar system. They are slowing down in so far as they are about 400km short of their predicted yearly waypoints, ie. closer to the sun than they should be.
Several factors have been attributed as a likely cause and these include
One possible explanation is that the solar system's aether drift becomes weaker but more 'vertically' orientated the further away from the center of the solar system. The trajectory of the pioneer satellites do not follow a straight line but are obviously influenced by the varying effect of planetary gravitation. In addition to this, the 'aether' drift would tend to push the satellites in a bowed trajectory, a classical hyperbola, curving to a degree in the plane and direction of the planetary orbits.
A similar effect may be partially responsible for the asymmetrical velocities of ' fly-by' trajectories and is most noticeable when the fly-by is orientated in the plane of the planet's equator, see "NASA baffled by force acting on space probes"
You have been patient enough to read this far but up to this point I haven't said much about the aether, which, after all, is the title of this page. Post Michelson-Morley aether has just reinvented itself. As space-curvature can be regarded as a property of matter, energy should be regarded as a property of the 'new' aether or dark energy, and the two are intrinsically linked.
The text on this website is only my opinion on the mechanics of gravitational attraction. It is hypothesis.
30th Oct 2005