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The Theory of Mercury's Anomalous Precession

Roger A. Rydin
Year: 2011 Pages: 6
Urbain Le Verrier published a preliminary paper in 1841 on the Theory of Mercury, and a definitive paper in 1859. He discovered a small unexplained shift in the perihelion of Mercury of 39? per century. The results were corrected in 1895 by Simon Newcomb, who increased the anomalous shift by about 10%. Albert Einstein, at the end of his 1916 paper on General Relativity, gave a specific solution for the perihelion shift which exactly matched the discrepancy. Dating from the 1947 Clemence review paper, that explanation and precise value have remained to the present time, being completely accepted by theoretical physicists as absolutely true. Modern numerical fittings of planetary orbits called Ephemerides contain linearized General Relativity corrections that cannot be turned off to see if discrepancies between observation and computation still exist of the magnitude necessary to support the General Relativity estimates of the differences.

The highly technical 1859 Le Verrier paper was written in French. The partial translation given here throws light on Le Verrier's analysis and thought processes, and points out that the masses he used for Earth and Mercury are quite different from present day values. A 1924 paper by a professor of Celestial Mechanics critiques both the Einstein and the Le Verrier analyses, and a 1993 paper gives a different and better fit to some of Le Verrier's data. Nonetheless, the effect of errors in planet masses seems to give new condition equations that do not change the perihelion discrepancy by a large amount. The question now is whether or not the excess shift of the perihelion of Mercury is real and has been properly explained in terms of General Relativity, or if there are other reasons for the observations. There are significant arguments that General Relativity has not been proven experimentally, and that it contains mathematical errors that invalidate its predictions. Vankov has analyzed Einstein?s 1915 derivation and concludes that when an inconsistency is corrected, there is no perihelion shift at all!