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Nature. 2003 Sep 25;425(6956):374-6.

A test of general relativity using radio links with the Cassini spacecraft.

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Dipartimento di Fisica Nucleare e Teorica, Università di Pavia, Via U. Bassi 6, I-27100, Pavia, Italy.


According to general relativity, photons are deflected and delayed by the curvature of space-time produced by any mass. The bending and delay are proportional to gamma + 1, where the parameter gamma is unity in general relativity but zero in the newtonian model of gravity. The quantity gamma - 1 measures the degree to which gravity is not a purely geometric effect and is affected by other fields; such fields may have strongly influenced the early Universe, but would have now weakened so as to produce tiny--but still detectable--effects. Several experiments have confirmed to an accuracy of approximately 0.1% the predictions for the deflection and delay of photons produced by the Sun. Here we report a measurement of the frequency shift of radio photons to and from the Cassini spacecraft as they passed near the Sun. Our result, gamma = 1 + (2.1 +/- 2.3) x 10(-5), agrees with the predictions of standard general relativity with a sensitivity that approaches the level at which, theoretically, deviations are expected in some cosmological models.


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