Experimental Tests of General Relativity: Past, Present and Future

  • C. W. F. Everitt


General Relativity -- Einstein’s theory of gravitation -- is at once the most far-reaching and least tested of physical theories. When Einstein advanced it in 1915 he suggested three tests, that is, three effects derived from his equations that were not to be expected on Newton’s theory of gravitation:
  1. (1)

    the gravitational redshift -- the wavelength X of a beam of light moving upwards through a gravitational field should be shifted towards the red by an amount AX/X = gh/c2, where A is the change in wavelength, g the gravitational acceleration, h the distance travelled and c the velocity of light

  2. (2)

    the deflection of starlight by the Sun -- light from a star passing close to the edge of the Sun should be deflected through a small angle of 1.74 arc-seconds

  3. (3)

    the anomalous precession of the perihelion of the planet Mercury -- the perihelion of a planet is the point in its elliptic orbit where it is closest to the Sun. According to Newton’s theory a single planet moving around an isolated massive body will trace a constant orbit so that the line joining the central body and the perihelion will remain fixed in space. Other planets perturb the motion, so that even on Newton’s theory the perihelion of Mercury is expected to advance through an angle of 531 arc-sec/century. Einstein calculated that there is an additional relativistic motion of 43 arc-sec/century. Similar but much smaller effects also occur for other planets.



Gravitational Wave Gravity Gradient Seismic Noise Inertial Mass Proof Mass 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. W. F. Everitt
    • 1
  1. 1.W.W.Hansen Laboratories of PhysicsStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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