Letter | Published:

The Motion of the Perihelion of Mercury

Nature volume 101, page 103 (11 April 1918) | Download Citation



IN NATURE for March 21 Sir Oliver Lodge suggests that the unexplained part of the motion of the perihelion of Mercury may be attributed to the action of a resisting medium. Such a medium would not necessarily produce any effect on the mean distance of a planet, for such an effect depends entirely on the relative velocity, and it is probable that the medium would revolve with the planets. The principal effect of the medium would be to reduce the eccentricity, and de/dt would contain e as a factor. There would be no motion of the perihelion if e were small enough. Any motion of this could arise only if the eccentricity were considerable, and thus would contain it as a factor. Hence dω/dt and dω/dt would be of the same order. Now the observed anomalous variations of ω and e in a century are 43″ and -0.88″, so that they are of different orders, and therefore cannot be due to a resisting medium.

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