Jan 14 2017

Astronomer’s Meeny Predictions Proven Wrong

All of Meeny’s predicted orbits and its current one (thick red line)

Yesterday astronomers finally were able to get a good look at Meeny after it had passed through Mun’s SOI for the 4th time after three rapid interceptions occurred within the span of 7 days. While they had predicted that Meeny would intercept Mun twice before completing a single orbit, which it did, the outcome of that and the following intercept have turned out to be way off from what was predicted. The figure included on the right shows all the orbits plotted for Meeny up to the point where it was expected to slam into Kerbin. The thick red line is its current orbit and it covers none of the predicted orbits to any degree. Although the plane at which the orbit rests is similar to predictions, the shape of the ellipse shows a far greater eccentricity than expected.

Right now astronomers are still working through their original calculations to determine if there were any mistakes made to account for things coming out so wrong in relation to actual events. Should everything appear to be fine with those, their next guess would be that the data they have on Mun which they were using to predict how Meeny would tumble through its SOI is not accurate enough. This would not be surprising, since Munar measurements from Kerbin do not carry much precision, and we would need satellites in orbit to really get a better idea of all the nuances of Mun’s gravity field. Still, astronomers are surprised their predictions could turn out so wrong so fast – they were expecting things to maybe break down in a few years, not a few weeks.

For now, everyone is taking Meeny’s approaches to Mun one at a time, and we’ll see where it ends up. If astronomers try their hands at a new prediction later down the road, we’ll be sure to let you all know.