Lunar laser ranging (LLR) has been a workhorse for testing general relativity over the past four decades. The three retroreflector arrays put on the Moon by the Apollo astronauts and the French built arrays on the Soviet Lunokhod rovers continue to be useful targets, and have provided the most stringent tests of the Strong Equivalence Principle and the time variation of Newton’s gravitational constant. The relatively new ranging system at the Apache Point 3.5 meter telescope now routinely makes millimeter level range measurements. Incredibly, it has taken 40 years for ground station technology to advance to the point where characteristics of the lunar retroreflectors are limiting the precision of the range measurements. In this article, we review the gravitational science and technology of lunar laser ranging and discuss prospects for the future.
Posts Tagged ‘04.80.Cc’
by: Clifford M. Will
The status of experimental tests of general relativity and of theoretical frameworks for analyzing them is reviewed. Einstein’s equivalence principle (EEP) is well supported by experiments such as the Eötvös experiment, tests of special relativity, and the gravitational redshift experiment. Ongoing tests of EEP and of the inverse square law are searching for new interactions arising from unification or quantum gravity. Tests of general relativity at the post-Newtonian level have reached high precision, including the light deflection, the Shapiro time delay, the perihelion advance of Mercury, and the Nordtvedt effect in lunar motion. Gravitational wave damping has been detected in an amount that agrees with general relativity to better than half a percent using the Hulse-Taylor binary pulsar, and other binary pulsar systems have yielded other tests, especially of strong-field effects. When direct observation of gravitational radiation from astrophysical sources begins, new tests of general relativity will be possible.
by: Ingrid H. Stairs
Pulsars of very different types, including isolated objects and binaries (with short- and long-period orbits, and white-dwarf and neutron-star companions) provide the means to test both the predictions of general relativity and the viability of alternate theories of gravity. This article presents an overview of pulsars, then discusses the current status of and future prospects for tests of equivalence-principle violations and strong-field gravitational experiments.