Journal of Geodesy

, Volume 82, Issue 3, pp 133–145 | Cite as

Geodesy and relativity

  • Jürgen MüllerEmail author
  • Michael Soffel
  • Sergei A. Klioner
Review Paper


Relativity, or gravitational physics, has widely entered geodetic modelling and parameter determination. This concerns, first of all, the fundamental reference systems used. The Barycentric Celestial Reference System (BCRS) has to be distinguished carefully from the Geocentric Celestial Reference System (GCRS), which is the basic theoretical system for geodetic modelling with a direct link to the International Terrestrial Reference System (ITRS), simply given by a rotation matrix. The relation to the International Celestial Reference System (ICRS) is discussed, as well as various properties and relevance of these systems. Then the representation of the gravitational field is discussed when relativity comes into play. Presently, the so-called post-Newtonian approximation to GRT (general relativity theory) including relativistic effects to lowest order is sufficient for practically all geodetic applications. At the present level of accuracy, space-geodetic techniques like VLBI (Very Long Baseline Interferometry), GPS (Global Positioning System) and SLR/LLR (Satellite/Lunar Laser Ranging) have to be modelled and analysed in the context of a post-Newtonian formalism. In fact, all reference and time frames involved, satellite and planetary orbits, signal propagation and the various observables (frequencies, pulse travel times, phase and travel-time differences) are treated within relativity. This paper reviews to what extent the space-geodetic techniques are affected by such a relativistic treatment and where—vice versa—relativistic parameters can be determined by the analysis of geodetic measurements. At the end, we give a brief outlook on how new or improved measurement techniques (e.g., optical clocks, Galileo) may further push relativistic parameter determination and allow for refined geodetic measurements.


Relativity Reference systems Geodesy Space-geodetic techniques Modelling Parameter determination 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jürgen Müller
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael Soffel
    • 2
  • Sergei A. Klioner
    • 2
  1. 1.Institut für Erdmessung (IfE)Leibniz Universität Hannover (University of Hannover)HannoverGermany
  2. 2.Institut für Planetare Geodäsie, Lohrmann-ObservatoriumDresden Technical UniversityDresdenGermany

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