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Concept# Exact solutions in general relativity

Summary

In general relativity, an exact solution is a solution of the Einstein field equations whose derivation does not invoke simplifying assumptions, though the starting point for that derivation may be an idealized case like a perfectly spherical shape of matter. Mathematically, finding an exact solution means finding a Lorentzian manifold equipped with tensor fields modeling states of ordinary matter, such as a fluid, or classical non-gravitational fields such as the electromagnetic field.
These tensor fields should obey any relevant physical laws (for example, any electromagnetic field must satisfy Maxwell's equations). Following a standard recipe which is widely used in mathematical physics, these tensor fields should also give rise to specific contributions to the stress–energy tensor . (A field is described by a Lagrangian, varying with respect to the field should give the field equations and varying with respect to the metric should give the stress-energy contribution due to the field.)
Finally, when all the contributions to the stress–energy tensor are added up, the result must be a solution of the Einstein field equations
In the above field equations, is the Einstein tensor, computed uniquely from the metric tensor which is part of the definition of a Lorentzian manifold. Since giving the Einstein tensor does not fully determine the Riemann tensor, but leaves the Weyl tensor unspecified (see the Ricci decomposition), the Einstein equation may be considered a kind of compatibility condition: the spacetime geometry must be consistent with the amount and motion of any matter or non-gravitational fields, in the sense that the immediate presence "here and now" of non-gravitational energy–momentum causes a proportional amount of Ricci curvature "here and now". Moreover, taking covariant derivatives of the field equations and applying the Bianchi identities, it is found that a suitably varying amount/motion of non-gravitational energy–momentum can cause ripples in curvature to propagate as gravitational radiation, even across vacuum regions, which contain no matter or non-gravitational fields.

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Vacuum solution (general relativity)

In general relativity, a vacuum solution is a Lorentzian manifold whose Einstein tensor vanishes identically. According to the Einstein field equation, this means that the stress–energy tensor also vanishes identically, so that no matter or non-gravitational fields are present. These are distinct from the electrovacuum solutions, which take into account the electromagnetic field in addition to the gravitational field.

Frame fields in general relativity

A frame field in general relativity (also called a tetrad or vierbein) is a set of four pointwise-orthonormal vector fields, one timelike and three spacelike, defined on a Lorentzian manifold that is physically interpreted as a model of spacetime. The timelike unit vector field is often denoted by and the three spacelike unit vector fields by . All tensorial quantities defined on the manifold can be expressed using the frame field and its dual coframe field.

Metric tensor (general relativity)

In general relativity, the metric tensor (in this context often abbreviated to simply the metric) is the fundamental object of study. The metric captures all the geometric and causal structure of spacetime, being used to define notions such as time, distance, volume, curvature, angle, and separation of the future and the past. In general relativity, the metric tensor plays the role of the gravitational potential in the classical theory of gravitation, although the physical content of the associated equations is entirely different.

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