On solar system dynamics in general relativity

Battista, E, Esposito, G, Di Fiore, L, Dell’Agnello, S, Simo, Jules orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-1489-5920 and Grado, A (2017) On solar system dynamics in general relativity. International Journal of Geometric Methods in Modern Physics . ISSN 0219-8878

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1142/S0219887817501171


Recent work in the literature has advocated using the Earth–Moon–planetoid Lagrangian points as observables, in order to test general relativity and effective field theories of gravity in the solar system. However, since the three-body problem of classical celestial mechanics is just an approximation of a much more complicated setting, where all celestial bodies in the solar system are subject to their mutual gravitational interactions, while solar radiation pressure and other sources of nongravitational perturbations also affect the dynamics, it is conceptually desirable to improve the current understanding of solar system dynamics in general relativity, as a first step towards a more accurate theoretical study of orbital motion in the weak-gravity regime. For this purpose, starting from the Einstein equations in the de Donder–Lanczos gauge, this paper arrives first at the Levi-Civita Lagrangian for the geodesic motion of planets, showing in detail under which conditions the effects of internal structure and finite extension get canceled in general relativity to first post-Newtonian order. The resulting nonlinear ordinary differential equations for the motion of planets and satellites are solved for the Earth’s orbit about the Sun, written down in detail for the Sun–Earth–Moon system, and investigated for the case of planar motion of a body immersed in the gravitational field produced by the other bodies (e.g. planets with their satellites). At this stage, we prove an exact property, according to which the fourth-order time derivative of the original system leads to a linear system of ordinary differential equations. This opens an interesting perspective on forthcoming research on planetary motions in general relativity within the solar system, although the resulting equations remain a challenge for numerical and qualitative studies. Last, the evaluation of quantum corrections to location of collinear and noncollinear Lagrangian points for the planar restricted three-body problem is revisited, and a new set of theoretical values of such corrections for the Earth–Moon–planetoid system is displayed and discussed. On the side of classical values, the general relativity corrections to Newtonian values for collinear and noncollinear Lagrangian points of the Sun–Earth–planetoid system are also obtained. A direction for future research will be the analysis of planetary motions within the relativistic celestial mechanics set up by Blanchet, Damour, Soffel and Xu.

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