Gravity Probe-B mission

The Lense-Thirring effect seen from the Earth by the satellite Gravity Probe B and of the de Sitter or Geodetic effect of gyroscopes around the Sun.

Book cover of the Global Gravity Law. V-838 Monocerotis.



Author: José Tiberius

Technical assistant:
Susan Sedge, Physics PhD from QMUL  



4.b.5. Gravity Probe-B experiment

The Gravity Probe B * mission proved to be, in part, success with its gyroscopes. It confirmed the de Sitter effect * or geodetic precession and the Lense-Thirring effect * or drag effect on mass but did not manage to reduce measurement error from previous experiments.

Regardless, the Gravity Probe B satellite provided additional confirmation of both effects. Furthermore, improvements on several technological limitations and our understanding of small effects from classical physics will be significant when it comes to future missions.

Geodetic precession –or geodesic– of gyroscopes in the plane of their orbit corresponds to similar effect producing the anomalous precession of Mercury.

According to Wikipedia, the main difference between geodetic precession or de Sitter effect and Lense-Thirring precession –frame dragging– is that de Sitter effect is due to the presence of a central mass, while Lense-Thirring precession comes from a rotation of said central mass.

General Relativity predicts Lense-Thirring effect. According to Einstein, it relates to Mach’s principle and implies a dragging of mass and electromagnetic energy by the gravitational field. Einstein added that, due to its small quantitative impact, it would be tough to confirm its existence.

Gravity Probe B follows a polar orbital trajectory to distinguish between both effects.

It is interesting to note that back in 1920, Einstein did not categorically deny the existence of aether –he even said that in his model, space-time itself could be an aether. However, Mach’s principle seems to be quite at odds with relativistic philosophy. In fact, dragging of mass by a gravitational field is not particularly relativistic if one considers that it does not refer to space-time curvature –and thus, a trajectory along geodesic lines– but to mass being dragged by something. This something seems similar to the concept of aether.

However, NASA presents the results from Gravity Probe B as another confirmation of General Relativity (see image). Nevertheless, as we shall see below, this experimental confirmation also supports Global Physics’ non-relativistic proposal.

Before analyzing the nature of effects confirmed by satellite Gravity Probe B, one should recall what Global Physics states regarding the concept of aether and the possible dragging of mass and energy.

  • There exists a partial dragging of mass by Global Aether (gravitational - kinetic - mass), which is like the inverse of general movement because the privileged reference frame for movement of mass is the Global Aether.

    The reticular structure of matter supports the mass, gravitational field and kinetic energy.

  • LUM Aether (Luminiferous, universal, and mobile) –gravitational field– is a dynamic property of Global Aether. LUM Aether (Luminiferous, universal, and mobile) completely drags light; however, one should consider that gravitational fields are additive, and the effective drag of light will be the resulting drag from its gravitational components.

Consequently, Global Physics not only accepts the Lense-Thirring effect on electromagnetic energy but also –as the gravitational field corresponds in this model to LUM Aether (Luminiferous, universal, and mobile)– it could also explain the Michelson-Morley experiment on the Earth’s surface in a non-relativistic way.

The Lense-Thirring effect for electromagnetic energy allows explaining properties of X-Ray jets and other particles near black holes. It also offers corrections to the light curvature effect produced by stars.

Regarding results of the Gravity Probe B:

  • De Sitter effect or geodetic precession

    According to Wikipedia, this effect corresponds to the explanation for the anomalous precession of Mercury.

    Paul Gerber first explained it in 1898 within a non-relativistic model, then by General Relativity in 1916 using the same formula, and more recently by Global Physics using the simplified approximation of a circular orbit. Of course, the interpretation of the mathematical formula differs for each of these three theories.

    The non-relativistic proof by Global Physics is on the page regarding Mercury’s orbit from the book Law of Global Gravity. This law explains the de Sitter effect in an alternative way, as it incorporates a modification of Newton’s Gravity Law using a small increase in centripetal acceleration due to kinetic energy.

  • Lense-Thirring precession on mass

    This effect states that a rotating mass provokes a rotation of its gravitational field, and consequently a dragging effect on the mass of an object in orbit.

    According to Global Physics, a gravitational field is not the aether of mass; thus, rotation of a gravitational field does not imply rotation of Global Aether (gravitational - kinetic - mass), and so it will not drag gyroscopes.

    Lense-Thirring effect
    and geodetic precession (Public domain image)
    Image on the non-relativistic explanation of results of the Gravity Probe B mission.

    On the other hand, the empirically observed precession is due to translational movement of the gyroscopes around the Sun. In other words, the cause is the geodetic effect of their solar orbit, similar to the effect, which causes anomalous precession of Mercury, but in this case affecting precession of the Earth.

    The solar orbit of satellite Gravity Probe B derives from its inertia and the Sun’s gravitational field and not by the Earth’s gravitational field or its rotation –though it modulates this orbit and gives it a sinusoidal form.

    What’s more, in the case of Mercury, the Earth or any gyroscope in a solar orbit, the precession of its solar orbit due to geodetic effects will produce the same precession concerning its axis of rotation. One could assume a similar explanation might apply to previous experiments that confirmed mass dragging from Lense-Thirring.

    Likewise, this proposal is consistent with the polar orbit of the satellite. As it is in a plane almost perpendicular to Earth’s solar orbit, the plane of the supposed geodesic line along which it moves –as well as its precession– is almost perpendicular to the precession of the expected Lense-Thirring dragging effect. Here, we use the term “almost perpendicular” because the expected dragging due to the gravitational field would be perpendicular to the axis of rotation of the Earth, while the geodesic effect would be in the plane of the polar orbit, which is almost perpendicular to the ecliptic plane.

A weird aspect of all this is the correct relativistic prediction of dragging of mass from the Lense-Thirring effect; however, at no moment is the solar orbit of gyroscopes or the Earth mentioned in presentations of this mission or its results.

In any case, it would not be the first time that justifications or arguments that are not entirely correct give quantitatively correct results.

The documentation of Gravity Probe B mission also fails to mention the quantitative coincidence between Lense-Thirring effect upon gyroscopes and de Sitter effect or geodetic precession of the solar orbit of the Earth.

To sum up, the following points endorse the proposal put forth by Global Physics:

  • Previously established characteristics of Global Aether and LUM Aether (Luminiferous, universal, and mobile)

  • Some effects of gravitational fields are additive and do not cancel

  • Logical correspondence between precession of planetary orbits and the axes of gyroscopes

  • Quantitative coincidence of supposed Lense-Thirring effect upon axes of gyroscopes with the precession of Earth’s solar orbit

    As the image shows, both supposed Lense-Thirring effect upon gyroscopes and geodesic precession of the Earth in its solar orbit are around 39 milliarcseconds/year, with the same vector orientation.

  • The simplicity of the calculations performed, as in this case, it is not necessary to make use of Kerr’s metric.

Other experiments regarding planetary orbits are about the abovementioned anomalous precession of the perihelion of Mercury of this book and the Paradox of the Relativistic Dolphin from the book Global Astrophysics and Cosmology.



* * *



When Don Magufo finishes the book,
he calls up Mª José very happily to tell her.

She says:

–Very good, what I most like is the Merlin effect,
but don’t forget that the most important thing
is to know one’s own limits,
Even if there aren’t many!