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No. 31: Jan-Feb 1984

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Mercury's orbit explained without relativity

A most satisfying element of support for Einstein's General Theory of Relativity (GR) has been its accounting for the residual precession of Mercury's orbit. In recent years, however, a rival explanation has been found in the non-symmetric gravitational field of the sun. Surface oscillations of the sun betray hidden internal rotation, which produces asymmetry in the sun's gravitational field. By applying the distorted field in predicting the orbit of Mercury and the minor planet Icarus, astronomers are more successful than when they use the GR. The authors of this paper claim that GR averages some 2 standard deviations off the mark, while results -using the nonsymmetrical gravitational field of the sun are right on the money!

(Campbell, L., et al; "The Sun's Quadrupole Moment and Perihelion Precession of Mercury," Nature, 305:508, 1983.)

Reference. For other explanations of the advance of Mercury's perihelion, see AHB1 in our Catalog: The Moon and the Planets. Ordering information at: here.

From Science Frontiers #31, JAN-FEB 1984. 1984-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987