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No. 42: Nov-Dec 1985

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Double-star system defies relativity

We all know that chapter from the Bible of Science that tells how Einstein's General Theory of Relativity triumphed over Newtonian celestial mechanics by accounting for the residual advance of Mercury's perihelion. The General Theory should also account for the precessions of double-star orbits, but a serious anomaly has been found. The double star DI Herculis has a Newtonian precession rate of 1.93 degrees per century, with another 2.34 added by relativistic effects. With more than 3,000 well-observed orbits of this star system on the books, astronomers come up with only 0.64 degree per century, instead of the 4.27 predicted by theory. Something is obviously awry; and all searches for errors and other influences on the orbit have been negative.

(Anonymous; "Double-Star System Defies Relativity," New Scientist, p. 23, August 29, 1985.)

Comment. As a matter of record, Newtonian mechanics can account for Mercury's perihelion advance if the sun is actually an oblate spheroid instead of the mathematically perfect sphere usually assumed. Also, the gravitational theory of J. Moffat seems to explain the motions of both Mercury and DI Herculis.

From Science Frontiers #42, NOV-DEC 1985. 1985-2000 William R. Corliss