skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on January 19, 2023

Title: The International Pulsar Timing Array second data release: Search for an isotropic gravitational wave background
ABSTRACT We searched for an isotropic stochastic gravitational wave background in the second data release of the International Pulsar Timing Array, a global collaboration synthesizing decadal-length pulsar-timing campaigns in North America, Europe, and Australia. In our reference search for a power-law strain spectrum of the form $h_c = A(f/1\, \mathrm{yr}^{-1})^{\alpha }$, we found strong evidence for a spectrally similar low-frequency stochastic process of amplitude $A = 3.8^{+6.3}_{-2.5}\times 10^{-15}$ and spectral index α = −0.5 ± 0.5, where the uncertainties represent 95 per cent credible regions, using information from the auto- and cross-correlation terms between the pulsars in the array. For a spectral index of α = −2/3, as expected from a population of inspiralling supermassive black hole binaries, the recovered amplitude is $A = 2.8^{+1.2}_{-0.8}\times 10^{-15}$. None the less, no significant evidence of the Hellings–Downs correlations that would indicate a gravitational-wave origin was found. We also analysed the constituent data from the individual pulsar timing arrays in a consistent way, and clearly demonstrate that the combined international data set is more sensitive. Furthermore, we demonstrate that this combined data set produces comparable constraints to recent single-array data sets which have more data than the constituent parts of the combination. Future international data releases will deliver increased more » sensitivity to gravitational wave radiation, and significantly increase the detection probability. « less
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; more » ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; « less
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract We have used X-ray data from the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) to search for long-timescale temporal correlations (“red noise”) in the pulse times of arrival (TOAs) from the millisecond pulsars PSR J1824−2452A and PSR B1937+21. These data more closely track intrinsic noise because X-rays are unaffected by the radio-frequency-dependent propagation effects of the interstellar medium. Our search yields strong evidence (natural log Bayes factor of 9.634 ± 0.016) for red noise in PSR J1824−2452A, but the search is inconclusive for PSR B1937+21. In the interest of future X-ray missions, we devise and implement a method to simulatemore »longer and higher-precision X-ray data sets to determine the timing baseline necessary to detect red noise. We find that the red noise in PSR B1937+21 can be reliably detected in a 5 yr mission with a TOA error of 2 μ s and an observing cadence of 20 observations per month compared to the 5 μ s TOA error and 11 observations per month that NICER currently achieves in PSR B1937+21. We investigate detecting red noise in PSR B1937+21 with other combinations of observing cadences and TOA errors. We also find that time-correlated red noise commensurate with an injected stochastic gravitational-wave background having an amplitude of A GWB = 2 × 10 −15 and spectral index of timing residuals of γ GWB = 13/3 can be detected in a pulsar with similar TOA precision to PSR B1937+21. This is with no additional red noise in a 10 yr mission that observes the pulsar 15 times per month and has an average TOA error of 1 μ s.« less
  2. Abstract We search NANOGrav’s 12.5 yr data set for evidence of a gravitational-wave background (GWB) with all the spatial correlations allowed by general metric theories of gravity. We find no substantial evidence in favor of the existence of such correlations in our data. We find that scalar-transverse (ST) correlations yield signal-to-noise ratios and Bayes factors that are higher than quadrupolar (tensor-transverse, TT) correlations. Specifically, we find ST correlations with a signal-to-noise ratio of 2.8 that are preferred over TT correlations (Hellings and Downs correlations) with Bayesian odds of about 20:1. However, the significance of ST correlations is reduced dramatically whenmore »we include modeling of the solar system ephemeris systematics and/or remove pulsar J0030+0451 entirely from consideration. Even taking the nominal signal-to-noise ratios at face value, analyses of simulated data sets show that such values are not extremely unlikely to be observed in cases where only the usual TT modes are present in the GWB. In the absence of a detection of any polarization mode of gravity, we place upper limits on their amplitudes for a spectral index of γ = 5 and a reference frequency of f yr = 1 yr −1 . Among the upper limits for eight general families of metric theories of gravity, we find the values of A TT 95 % = ( 9.7 ± 0.4 ) × 10 − 16 and A ST 95 % = ( 1.4 ± 0.03 ) × 10 − 15 for the family of metric spacetime theories that contain both TT and ST modes.« less
  3. Abstract While observations of many high-precision radio pulsars of order ≲1 μ s across the sky are needed for the detection and characterization of a stochastic background of low-frequency gravitational waves (GWs), sensitivity to single sources of GWs requires even higher timing precision. The Argentine Institute of Radio Astronomy (IAR; Instituto Argentino de Radioastronomía) has begun observations of the brightest known millisecond pulsar, J0437−4715. Even though the two antennas are smaller than other single-dish telescopes previously used for pulsar timing array (PTA) science, the IAR’s capability to monitor this pulsar daily, coupled with the pulsar’s brightness, allows for high-precision measurementsmore »of pulse-arrival time. While upgrades of the facility are currently underway, we show that modest improvements beyond current plans will provide IAR with unparalleled sensitivity to this pulsar. The most stringent upper limits on single GW sources come from the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav). Observations of PSR J0437−4715 will provide a significant sensitivity increase in NANOGrav’s “blind spot” in the sky where fewer pulsars are currently being observed. With state-of-the-art instrumentation installed, we estimate the array’s sensitivity will improve by a factor of ≈2–4 over 10 yr for 20% of the sky with the inclusion of this pulsar, as compared to a static version of the PTA used in NANOGrav’s most recent limits. More modest instrumentation results in factors of ≈1.4–3. We identify four other candidate pulsars as suitable for inclusion in PTA efforts. International PTA efforts will also benefit from inclusion of these data, given the potential achievable sensitivity.« less
  4. Abstract Using Bayesian analyses we study the solar electron density with the NANOGrav 11 yr pulsar timing array (PTA) data set. Our model of the solar wind is incorporated into a global fit starting from pulse times of arrival. We introduce new tools developed for this global fit, including analytic expressions for solar electron column densities and open source models for the solar wind that port into existing PTA software. We perform an ab initio recovery of various solar wind model parameters. We then demonstrate the richness of information about the solar electron density, n E , that can bemore »gleaned from PTA data, including higher order corrections to the simple 1/ r 2 model associated with a free-streaming wind (which are informative probes of coronal acceleration physics), quarterly binned measurements of n E and a continuous time-varying model for n E spanning approximately one solar cycle period. Finally, we discuss the importance of our model for chromatic noise mitigation in gravitational-wave analyses of pulsar timing data and the potential of developing synergies between sophisticated PTA solar electron density models and those developed by the solar physics community.« less
  5. Abstract When galaxies merge, the supermassive black holes in their centers may form binaries and emit low-frequency gravitational radiation in the process. In this paper, we consider the galaxy 3C 66B, which was used as the target of the first multimessenger search for gravitational waves. Due to the observed periodicities present in the photometric and astrometric data of the source, it has been theorized to contain a supermassive black hole binary. Its apparent 1.05-year orbital period would place the gravitational-wave emission directly in the pulsar timing band. Since the first pulsar timing array study of 3C 66B, revised models ofmore »the source have been published, and timing array sensitivities and techniques have improved dramatically. With these advances, we further constrain the chirp mass of the potential supermassive black hole binary in 3C 66B to less than (1.65 ± 0.02) × 10 9   M ⊙ using data from the NANOGrav 11-year data set. This upper limit provides a factor of 1.6 improvement over previous limits and a factor of 4.3 over the first search done. Nevertheless, the most recent orbital model for the source is still consistent with our limit from pulsar timing array data. In addition, we are able to quantify the improvement made by the inclusion of source properties gleaned from electromagnetic data over “blind” pulsar timing array searches. With these methods, it is apparent that it is not necessary to obtain exact a priori knowledge of the period of a binary to gain meaningful astrophysical inferences.« less