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VLBI astrometry for the NASA/Stanford gyroscope relativity mission Gravity Probe B

  • N. Bartel (a1), R. R. Ransom (a1), M. F. Bietenholz (a1), D. E. Lebach (a2), M. I. Ratner (a2), I. I. Shapiro (a2) and J.-F. Lestrade (a3)...

Abstract

We used VLBI observations at 8.4 GHz between 1991 and 2005 to determine the motion of the RS CVn binary IM Pegasi (HR 8703), the guide star for the NASA/Stanford gyroscope relativity mission, Gravity Probe B (GP-B). The motion was determined relative to our primary reference, the core of the quasar 3C 454.3. The stability of this core was checked relative to two other extragalactic sources, B2250+194 and B2252+172, the former of which was tied to the ICRF. The core of 3C 454.3 is stationary relative to these two sources to within 30 μas yr−1 in each coordinate. IM Pegasi's radio morphology varies, but appears to be on average centered on the primary. We estimate the proper motion of IM Pegasi with a statistical standard error (sse) of 30 μas yr−1 in each coordinate. We also estimate the parallax with a statistical standard error of 75 μas and parameters of the orbit with sse's corresponding to 110 μas on the sky. Coupled with our upper limit of three times the sse on any systematic errors in each parameter %threefold higher upper limit on the systematic error contributions to each parameter estimate, these results ensure that the uncertainty of IM Pegasi's proper motion makes only a small contribution to the uncertainty of GP-B's tests of general relativity.

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* now at DRAO, Penticton, Canada

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