The Precession of Mercury’s Orbit, an Evidence for General Relativity

Rira Nurmaida

High Energy Physics and Instrumentation Division, Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences,

Institut Teknologi Bandung, Jalan Ganesa 10, Bandung 40132, Indonesia



The precession of Mercury’s orbit was once computed by the method of perturbations, the method that predicted the elliptical orbit should shift or precess some fraction of a degree per century. The value for Mercury based on the calculation is 532” per century, though the observation confirmed the precession is about 575” per century. The additional 43” per century is quite puzzling, until Einstein proposed the General Relativity which provide the answer. Next in the following we will use the general relativity to recalculate the precession, and give the correction to the former calculation.

Keywords: precession of mercury’s orbit, general relativity, Schwarzschild metric


After Newton’s success in describing the motion of the planet and explaining Kepler’s elliptical planetary orbit through solar gravitational and calculus, his successors computed the deviations caused by other planets. Unlike the Keplerian ellipse of the Newtonian gravitational theory, the orbit does not close. Rather the angular position of the closest approach advance slightly on each return by an angle called the precession of the perihelion for a planet around the Sun. In other words, it was found a precession of the perihelion of the orbit that is the angle between two positions of closest approach at the inner turning radius of the orbit.[1]