Progress in Measurements of the Gravitational Bending of Radio Waves Using the VLBA
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We have used the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) at 43, 23, and 15 GHz to measure the solar gravitational deflection of radio waves among four radio sources during an 18 day period in 2005 October. Using phase- referenced radio interferometry to fit the measured phase delay to the propagation equation of the parameterized post-Newtonian formalism, we have determined the deflection parameter γ = 0.9998 ± 0.0003 (68% confidence level), in agreement with general relativity. The results come mainly from 43 GHz observations where the refraction effects of the solar corona were negligible beyond 3 deg from the Sun. The purpose of this experiment is three-fold: to improve on the previous results in the gravitational bending experiments near the solar limb; to examine and evaluate the accuracy limits of terrestrial VLBI techniques; and to determine the prospects and outcomes of future experiments. Our conclusion is that a series of improved designed experiments with the VLBA could increase the presented accuracy by at least a factor of 4.
The Astrophysical Journal, 699:1395-1402, 2009 July 10