The speed of gravity in general relativity and theoretical interpretation of the Jovian deflection experiment

Kopeikin S.

CLASSICAL AND QUANTUM GRAVITY, vol.21, no.13, pp.3251-3286, 2004 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 21 Issue: 13
  • Publication Date: 2004
  • Doi Number: 10.1088/0264-9381/21/13/010
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.3251-3286
  • Istanbul Technical University Affiliated: No


According to Einstein, the notions of geodesic, parallel transport (affine connection) and curvature of the spacetime manifold have a pure geometric origin and do not correlate with any electromagnetic concepts. At the same time, curvature is generated by matter which is not affiliated with the spacetime geometric concepts. For this reason, the fundamental constant c entering the geometric and matter sectors of the general theory of relativity has different conceptual meanings. Specifically, the letter c on the left-hand side of the Einstein equations (geometric sector) entering the Christoffel symbols and its time derivatives is the ultimate speed of gravity characterizing the upper limit on the speed of its propagation as well as the maximal rate of change of time derivatives of the metric tensor, that is gravitational field. The letter c on the right-hand side of the Einstein equations (matter sector) is the maximal speed of propagation of any other field rather than gravity. Einstein's general principle of relativity extends his principle of special relativity and equates the numerical value of the ultimate speed of gravity to that of the speed of light in the special theory of relativity but this general principle must be tested experimentally. To this end, we work out the speed of gravity parametrization of the Einstein equations (c(g)-parametrization) to keep track of the time-dependent effects associated with the geometric sector of general relativity and to separate them from the time-dependent effects of the matter sector. Parametrized post-Newtonian (PPN) approximation of the Einstein equations is derived in order to explain the gravitational physics of the Jovian deflection VLBI experiment conducted on 8 September 2002. The post-Newtonian series expansion in the c(g)-parametrized general relativity is with respect to a small parameter that is proportional to the ratio of the characteristic velocity of the bodies to the speed of propagation of the gravitational interaction c(g). The Einstein equations are solved in terms of the Lienard-Wiechert tensor potentials which are used for integrating the light-ray propagation equations. An exact analytic expression for the relativistic time delay in the propagation of a radio wave from a quasar to an observer is calculated under the assumption that the light-ray deflecting bodies move with constant velocities. A post-Newtonian expansion of the time delay proves that in general relativity the time delay is affected by the speed of gravity already to the first order in 1/c(g) beyond the leading (static) Shapiro term. We conclude that recent measurements of the propagation of the quasar's radio signal past Jupiter are directly sensitive to the time-dependent effect from the geometric sector of general relativity which is proportional to the speed of propagation of gravity c(g) but not the speed of light. It provides a first confirmative measurement of the fundamental speed c of the Einstein general principle of relativity for gravitational field. A comparative analysis of our formulation with the alternative interpretations of the experiment given by other authors is provided.