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U.J. (Urbain Jean Joseph) Le Verrier, Simon Newcomb

Mercury's Orbital Precession Advance of its Perihelion

"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind" - Science, Philosophy and Religion: a Symposium (1941), chap. 13 - Albert Einstein ( 1879 - 1955 )

Since 2008 when Messenger spacecraft first passed Mercury and subsequently going into orbit in 2011, this colorized video by NASA is a product of 160,000 stitched mosaic images from its Wide Angle Camera ( WAC ) as well as other observations taken as part of the Mercury Messenger mission. source: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington, published June 11, 2013.

Short History of the Problem

After having taken into account Newton's inverse - square Law of Universal Gravity for the various other gravitational perturbative effects due to the other 4 inner planets of venus, earth and mars including the effects of the sun, which takes its largest value in the case of mercury's orbit determined with observational certainty, only the last 43 arcsecs per century remainder in the residual precession rate in the longitude of mercury's perihelion, not explainable alone by Newtonian gravity, is adequately accounted for, well within the bounds of experimental error, by Einstein's Theory of General Relativity mathematics first presented to the Prussian Academy of Science in November 1915 and subsequently successfully applied to "Mercury's Problem" throughout the period of 1915-1916.

That is, only the last 43 arcsecs per century remainder ... is adequately accounted for ... by Einstein's Theory of General Relativity mathematics!!

This then became the first successful test for Einstein's General Relativity mathematical physics theory for gravity.

In fact

U.J. (Urbain Jean Joseph) Le Verrier

demonstrates that gravitational interactions occur at the speed of light!

plane of mercury's orbit

This mysteriously anomalous, yet unexplained, residual precession rate in mercury's equatorial orbit plane had been voluminously documented in the observational data gathered of mercury's transit across the face of the sun first by U.J. Le Verrier, Ann. Obs. Paris 5 ( 1859 ) and later confirmed by S. Newcomb, US Navy Astronomical Observatory Papers, Washington ( 1882 & 1898 ); and its significant definitive explanation by general relativity mathematics heralded one of the most important early fundamental direct tests of spacetime ( gravitational metric ) theory.

Simon Newcomb
U.J. ( Urbain Jean Joseph ) Le Verrier
( 1811 - 1877 )
French mathematician, astronomer of celestial mechanics
Predictor of Neptune and its position by mathematical calculation alone
by employing a laborious computational method to assess the effects of gravity, known as
"gravitational perturbation theory", Le Verrier successfully argued in favor of Neptune's actual existence
Taught astronomy at the École Polytechnique in 1837
Discoverer of mercury's perihelion advance in 1855
Appointed director of the Paris Observatory in 1857
Authored major 1859 paper on mercury's perihelion precession contradicting Newton's Law of Gravity
U.J. (Urbain Jean Joseph) Le Verrier
Simon Newcomb
( born Nova Scotia, Canada, 1835 - 1909, buried Arlington National Cemetery )
Brilliant Canadian - American astronomer, mathematician
Also writer on economics, statistics and science fiction novelist

Simon Newcomb"Astronomical Papers, American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac", by Simon Newcomb

The recent confirming results of the Gravity Probe B ( GP-B ) experiment for the "frame - dragging" general relativistic effect upon an orbiting gyroscope axis under earth's gravitational influence ( directly analogous to mercury and the sun where mercury's effect upon the metric of the surrounding spacetime fabric is negligible compared to the sun ), finally further demonstrated by observational experiment the general relativity mathematics for the residual precession of a gyroscope's axis by an overwhelming gravity field of force.

Solar and Heliospheric Observatory - Real-time Nov. 8th, 2006 Mercury transit taken by the SOHO spacecraft directly passing in front of the sun
source: NASA's SOHO Project
[ note: look for a tiny black speck going from left to right in the lower 1/3rd of the video and appearing about 1/2 way across ]

mercury transit, Hawaii, Nov. 8th, 2006
Ca-K timelapse movie with Coronado Ca-K 70mm
source:The summit of Haleakala, the Visitor Information Station (VIS) and summit of Mauna Kea.
[ note: look for a tiny black speck beginning from about 2 o'clock and going down towards 7 o'clock ]

The Geometry of Elliptical Orbits

All conic sections arise from this quadratic equation in the Cartesian coordinate system with proper choices for the A, B, C, D, E, and F constants

Simon Newcomb

producing these geometric configurations

U.J. (Urbain Jean Joseph) Le Verrier

Newton's theory of planetary motion  states that a smaller planet's mass moving under the gravitational influence of a greater planet's mass will be one of the conic sections. In fact, only the total energy available for any given planetary orbit will determine the type of planetary conic section being formed and, indeed, all the planetary orbits are ellipses with the sun at one of the foci.

Also, but just theoretically, if a planetary body had just enough energy to escape its bonds to infinity but without enough energy to maintain a finite constant outward velocity, the trajectory at infinity would be parabolic; if, however, there were enough kinetic energy beyond its initial escape for an indefinite amount of constant velocity, the trajectory path would be hyperbolic. [ source: Relativity Science Calculator Glossary: Ellipse; Elliptic Paths ]

Simon Newcomb

The Mathematical Physics Tools Employed

U.J. (Urbain Jean Joseph) Le VerrierThe Schwarzschild EquationThe Geodesic Equation

The Four Equations of Geodesic Motion

Simon Newcombnon-zero Christoffels of the 2nd - kind

The Mathematical Computations

U.J. (Urbain Jean Joseph) Le Verrier

Full - on view of Mercury taken by Mariner 10 spacecraft in 1974, surveying only one hemisphere, was replaced by Messenger ( MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment GEochemistry, and Ranging ), launched Aug. 3, 2003 for a full insertion into Mercury orbit in 2011 after having gone past Earth once and Venus twice using these planets gravitational pull. source: NASA

Let's now simplify the physics by assuming the equatorial plane of the spherical coordinates containing the initial velocity vector and the initial position vector for the central mass of the of orbiting planet mercury around the sun, possesses spherical angle phi Simon Newcomb and hence Simon Newcomb as well as U.J. (Urbain Jean Joseph) Le Verrier. Therefore we will only be "mathematically observing" the perihelic angle theta Simon Newcomb:

U.J. (Urbain Jean Joseph) Le Verrier

STEREO ( Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory ) Captures Huge Solar Eruption with superimposed spherical coordinates and an imagined planet mercury traversing the equatorial plane. source: NASA's Solar Terrestrial Probes Program ( STP ), April 12 - 13, 2010

Thus spherical angle Simon Newcomb is held constant whereby planet mercury's orbit is permanently confined to the equatorial plane and henceforth any orbital precession of the perihelion for mercury can be mathematically compared to any actual experimental observations!

Hence, the above remaining geodesic equations of motion become

U.J. (Urbain Jean Joseph) Le Verrier

and the final reduction for the remaining geodesic equations of motion is as follows:

Simon Newcomb


U.J. (Urbain Jean Joseph) Le Verrier

Simon Newcomb

Now integrating equations U.J. (Urbain Jean Joseph) Le Verrier and U.J. (Urbain Jean Joseph) Le Verrier, we get:

Simon Newcombangular momentum

However not to forget the 'U.J. (Urbain Jean Joseph) Le Verrier - equation' of U.J. (Urbain Jean Joseph) Le Verrier above, a simpler equation to derive is the Schwarzschild metric equation for gravity's force field by substituting for U.J. (Urbain Jean Joseph) Le Verrier and Simon Newcomb as follows:

U.J. (Urbain Jean Joseph) Le Verrier

Newton's Orbital Physics vs. Einstein's Orbital Physics

Now in the non - relativistic, classical physics of Newton and Kepler, the planetary orbital linear equation

Simon Newcomb

and without the non - linear, general relativistic perturbation term

U.J. (Urbain Jean Joseph) Le Verrier

has the straight - forward solution

Simon Newcomborbital eccentricity, gravitational energy, and angular momentum per unit massangular momentum derivation

In fact, it can be more explicitly shown by means of proofs for Kepler's 1st Law ( Planetary Law of Ellipses: Sun - centered model ) and Kepler's 2nd Law ( Equal Areas in Equal Times: Variable - speed model ) that

U.J. (Urbain Jean Joseph) Le Verrier

In the meantime, observe the following proof:

Simon Newcomb

Perturbation Method: Final Derivation of Mercury's Perihelion Advance

U.J. (Urbain Jean Joseph) Le Verrier

JPL Calculated and Observed Arcsec Values of Simon Newcomb per Julian century of the Four Inner Planets
semi-major axis[1]
.U.J. (Urbain Jean Joseph) Le Verrier
.Simon Newcomb
orbital period[1, 2]
.( earth years )
U.J. (Urbain Jean Joseph) Le Verrier.
( Myles Standish[3, 4] -
JPL calculation, 2000 )
astronomical perihelia observation[5]
.( arcsecs per Julian century )
arcsecs per revolution
Mercury 5.791 x 1010m 0.20563069 0.240848533∗∗∗∗ 42.980"± 0.001" 42.9764"± 0.0050" 0.1035"[6]
Venus 10.821 x 1010m 0.00677323 0.615194857 8.618"± 0.041" 9.148"± 0.30" 0.0530"
Earth 14.960 x 1010m 0.01671022 1.000000000 3.846"± 0.012" 3.8458"± 0.0004" 0.0038"
Mars 22.792 x 1010m 0.09341233 1.880870765 1.351"± 0.001" 1.3511"± 0.0005" 0.0254"

1 source:

2 Tropical orbit period was used in the alignment of earth's axis of rotation with that of the individual planet axis as it better takes account for the precession

of the equinoxes than does the Sidereal orbit period for our purposes

3 Principal Member of Technical Staff at JPL calculated the 4 inner planets from A.D. 1800 to A.D. 2200 by comparing Mercury's perhelia every 400 days

using JPL's Solar System Data Processing System ( SSDPS ) numerical integration program

4 U.J. (Urbain Jean Joseph) Le Verrier "Advance of Mercury's Perihelion", by Edmund Bertschinger & Edwin F. Taylor, 2010

5 Simon Newcomb "Relativistic Effects and Solar Oblateness from Radar Observations of Planets and Spacecraft", Copyright © by E. V. Pitjeva, Institute of Applied

Astronomy, Russian Academy of Sciences, published in Astronomy Letters, Vol. 31, No. 5, 2005, pgs. 340 - 349.

See: Table 3 - Secular motions of the planetary perihelia


Simon Newcomb

Calculating Mercury's Perihelion Advance

U.J. (Urbain Jean Joseph) Le Verrier

§ References:

  1. Simon Newcomb "ANNALES de L'OBSERVATOIRE IMPERIAL DE PARIS ( 1859 ) - RECHERCHES ASTRONOMIQUES, Par U.J. LE VERRIER - CHAPITRE XV: Theorie Du Mouvement De Mercure" source: John G. Wolbach Library, Harvard - Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Provided by the NASA Astrophysics Data System. Go to Page 62: 'SECTION IV - COMPARAISON DE LA THÉORIE AVEC LES OBSERVATIONS, Passages de Mercure sur le Soleil'.

  2. U.J. (Urbain Jean Joseph) Le Verrier "Astronomical Papers, American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac", Washington, Bureau of Navigation, Navy Department, 1882, by Simon Newcomb, Ph.D., LL.D, Professor United States Navy.

  3. Simon Newcomb "Erklärung der Perihelbewegung des Merkur aus der allgemeinen Realtivitätstheorie" ( Explanation of the Perihelion Motion of Mercury from General Relativity Theory ), von A. Einstein, Sitzungsberichte der Königlich Preußischen Akademie der Wissenschaften ( Berlin, published November 25, 1915), pp. 831 - 839, original German; now translated decades later into English by Prof. Roger Rydin, University of Virginia. Included here, also, is U.J. (Urbain Jean Joseph) Le Verrier Karl Schwarzschild's original letter to Albert Einstein, December 22, 1915, regarding Mercury's orbital precession, again translated into English.

  4. "The Theory of Relativity", 2nd edition, by R.K. Pathria, Distinguished Professor Emeritus University of Waterloo, Dover Publications, Inc.

  5. "Tensors, Relativity and Cosmology", by Mirjana Dalarsson, Ericsson Research and Development and Nils Dalarsson, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, Elsevier Academic Press.

  6. "Mathematical Physics", 2nd edition, by Donald H. Menzel ( 1901 - 1976 ), Professor of Astrophysics, Harvard University, Dover Publications, Inc., first published in 1947 under the title "Theoretical Physics", Prentice - Hall, Inc.

  7. "Gravitation and Spacetime", by Hans C. Ohanian and Remo Ruffini, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, London.

  8. "Gravitation and Inertia", by Ignazio Ciufolini and John Archibald Wheeler, Princeton Series in Physics.

  9. "Relativity: Modern Large - Scale Spacetime Structure of the Cosmos", by Moshe Carmeli, Editor ( born Baghdad, Iraq, 1933 - deceased Beer Sheva, Israel, 2007 ), Albert Einstein Professor, Physics Department, Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheva, Israel, World Scientific Publishing Co., Pte Ltd.

  10. U.J. (Urbain Jean Joseph) Le Verrier "Alternative derivation of the relativistic contribution to perihelic precession", by Tyler J. Lemmon and Antonio R. Mondragon, Dept. of Physics, Colorado College, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Simon Newcomb

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