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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

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