Astrometric Effects of Secular Aberration
Metadata[+] Show full item record
One of the main endeavors of fundamental astrometry is to establish a practical realization of an inertial reference frame anchored to celestial objects whose positions are defined in the barycentric coordinates of the solar system. The development of astrometric facilities operating from space at a microarcsecond level of precision makes the non-uniformity of the galactic motion of the barycenter an observable effect that violates the inertiality of the barycentric frame. Most of the observable effect is caused by secular acceleration of the barycenter with respect to the center of the Galaxy. The acceleration results in a pattern of secular aberration which is observable astrometrically as a systematic vector field of the proper motions of distant quasars. We employ the vector spherical harmonics to describe the predicted field of the proper motions and evaluate its amplitude at each point on the celestial sphere. It is shown that the pattern of secular aberration is fully represented by three low-order electric-type vector harmonics, and hence, it is easily distinguishable from the residual rotations of the reference frame and other possible effects, such as the hypothetical long-period gravitational waves. Comprehensive numerical simulations of the grid astrometry with SIM PlanetQuest are conducted. The full covariance matrix of the simulated grid solution is used to evaluate the covariances of the three electric harmonic coefficients, representing the secular aberration pattern of proper motions. We conclude that the grid astrometry with SIM PlanetQuest will be sensitive to the main galactocentric component of secular acceleration, while the peculiar acceleration of the Sun with respect to LSR is expected to be too small to be detected with this astrometric space interferometer.