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Spherical harmonics representation of the gravitational phase shift

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posted on 2023-03-20, 16:01 authored by Slava G. Turyshev, Viktor T. Toth
We investigate the general relativistic phase of an electromagnetic wave as it propagates in the gravitational field of the Earth, which is modeled as an isolated, weakly aspherical gravitating body. We introduce coordinate systems to describe light propagation in the Earth's vicinity along with the relevant coordinate transformations, and discuss the transformations between proper and coordinate times. We represent the Earth's gravitational field using Cartesian symmetric trace-free (STF) mass multipole moments. The light propagation equation is solvable along the trajectory of a light ray to all STF orders $\ell$. Although we focus primarily on the quadrupole ($\ell=2$), octupole ($\ell=3$), and hexadecapole ($\ell=4$) cases, our approach is valid to all orders. We express the STF moments via spherical harmonic coefficients of various degree and order, $C_{\ell k}, S_{\ell k}$. The result is the gravitational phase shift expressed in terms of the spherical harmonics. These results are new. We also consider contributions due to tides and the Earth's rotation. We estimate the characteristic magnitudes of each term of the resulting overall gravitational phase shift. The terms assessed are either large enough to impact current-generation clocks or will become significant as future-generation clocks offer greater sensitivity. Our formulation is useful for many practical and scientific applications, including space-based time and frequency transfers, relativistic geodesy and navigation, as well as quantum communication links and space-based tests of fundamental physics.



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