General relativistic model for experimental measurement of the speed of propagation of gravity by VLBI
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A relativistic sub-picosecond model of gravitational time delay in radio astronomical observations is worked out and a new experimental test of general relativity is discussed in which the effect of retardation of gravity associated with its finite speed can be observed. As a consequence, the speed of gravity can be measured by differential VLBI observations. Retardation in propagation of gravity is a central part of the Einstein theory of general relativity which has not been tested directly so far. The idea of the proposed gravitational experiment is based on the fact that gravity in general relativity propagates with finite speed so that the deflection of light caused by the body must be sensitive to the ratio of the body's velocity to the speed of gravity. The interferometric experiment can be performed, for example, during the very close angular passage of a quasar by Jupiter. Due to the finite speed of gravity and orbital motion of Jupiter, the variation in its gravitational field reaches observer on Earth not instantaneously but at the retarded instant of time and should appear as a velocity-dependent excess time delay in addition to the well-known Shapiro delay, caused by the static part of the Jupiter's gravitational field. Such Jupiter-QSO encounter events take place once in a decade. The next such event will occur on September 8, 2002 when Jupiter will pass by quasar J0842+1835 at the angular distance 3.7 arcminutes. If radio interferometric measurement of the quasar coordinates in the sky are done with the precision of a few picoseconds (about 5 microarcseconds) the effect of retardation of gravity and its speed of propagation may be measured with an accuracy about 10%.