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  1. Abstract Statistical anisotropy in the nanohertz-frequency gravitational wave background (GWB) is expected to be detected by pulsar timing arrays (PTAs) in the near future. By developing a frequentist statistical framework that intrinsically restricts the GWB power to be positive, we establish scaling relations for multipole-dependent anisotropy decision thresholds that are a function of the noise properties, timing baselines, and cadences of the pulsars in a PTA. We verify that (i) a larger number of pulsars, and (ii) factors that lead to lower uncertainty on spatial cross-correlation measurements between pulsars, lead to a higher overall GWB signal-to-noise ratio, and lower anisotropy decision thresholds with which to reject the null hypothesis of isotropy. Using conservative simulations of realistic NANOGrav data sets, we predict that an anisotropic GWB with angular power C l =1 > 0.3 C l =0 may be sufficient to produce tension with isotropy at the p = 3 × 10 −3 (∼3 σ ) level in near-future NANOGrav data with a 20 yr baseline. We present ready-to-use scaling relationships that can map these thresholds to any number of pulsars, configuration of pulsar noise properties, or sky coverage. We discuss how PTAs can improve the detection prospects for anisotropy, as well as how our methods can be adapted for more versatile searches. 
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  2. Abstract

    The millisecond pulsar J1713+0747 underwent a sudden and significant pulse shape change between 2021 April 16 and 17 (MJDs 59320 and 59321). Subsequently, the pulse shape gradually recovered over the course of several months. We report the results of continued multifrequency radio observations of the pulsar made using the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment and the 100 m Green Bank Telescope in a 3 yr period encompassing the shape change event, between 2020 February and 2023 February. As of 2023 February, the pulse shape had returned to a state similar to that seen before the event, but with measurable changes remaining. The amplitude of the shape change and the accompanying time-of-arrival residuals display a strong nonmonotonic dependence on radio frequency, demonstrating that the event is neither a glitch (the effects of which should be independent of radio frequency,ν) nor a change in dispersion measure alone (which would produce a delay proportional toν−2). However, it does bear some resemblance to the two previous “chromatic timing events” observed in J1713+0747, as well as to a similar event observed in PSR J1643−1224 in 2015.

     
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  3. Abstract

    With strong evidence of a common-spectrum stochastic process in the most recent data sets from the NANOGrav Collaboration, the European Pulsar Timing Array (PTA), Parkes PTA, and the International PTA, it is crucial to assess the effects of the several astrophysical and cosmological sources that could contribute to the stochastic gravitational wave background (GWB). Using the same data set creation and injection techniques as in Pol et al., we assess the separability of multiple GWBs by creating single and multiple GWB source data sets. We search for these injected sources using Bayesian PTA analysis techniques to assess recovery and separability of multiple astrophysical and cosmological backgrounds. For a GWB due to supermassive black hole binaries and an underlying weaker background due to primordial gravitational waves with a GW energy-density ratio of ΩPGWSMBHB= 0.5, the Bayes’ factor for a second process exceeds unity at 17 yr, and increases with additional data. At 20 yr of data, we are able to constrain the spectral index and amplitude of the weaker GWB at this density ratio to a fractional uncertainty of 64% and 110%, respectively, using current PTA methods and techniques. Using these methods and findings, we outline a basic protocol to search for multiple backgrounds in future PTA data sets.

     
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  4. Abstract Using neural networks, we integrate the ability to account for Doppler smearing due to a pulsar’s orbital motion with the pulsar population synthesis package psrpoppy to develop accurate modeling of the observed binary pulsar population. As a first application, we show that binary neutron star systems where the two components have highly unequal mass are, on average, easier to detect than systems that are symmetric in mass. We then investigate the population of ultracompact (1.5 minutes ≤ P b ≤ 15 minutes) neutron star–white dwarf (NS–WD) and double neutron star (DNS) systems, which are promising sources for the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna gravitational-wave detector. Given the nondetection of these systems in radio surveys thus far, we estimate a 95% confidence upper limit of ∼1450 and ∼1100 ultracompact NS–WD and DNS systems in the Milky Way that are beaming toward the Earth, respectively. We also show that using survey integration times in the range 20 s–200 s with time-domain resampling will maximize the signal-to-noise ratio as well as the probability of detection of these ultracompact binary systems. Among all the large-scale radio pulsar surveys, those that are currently being carried out using archival data collected with the Arecibo radio telescope have a ∼50%–80% chance of detecting at least one of these systems using current integration integration times and ∼80%–95% using optimal integration times in the next several years. 
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  5. Abstract

    Recently we found compelling evidence for a gravitational-wave background with Hellings and Downs (HD) correlations in our 15 yr data set. These correlations describe gravitational waves as predicted by general relativity, which has two transverse polarization modes. However, more general metric theories of gravity can have additional polarization modes, which produce different interpulsar correlations. In this work, we search the NANOGrav 15 yr data set for evidence of a gravitational-wave background with quadrupolar HD and scalar-transverse (ST) correlations. We find that HD correlations are the best fit to the data and no significant evidence in favor of ST correlations. While Bayes factors show strong evidence for a correlated signal, the data does not strongly prefer either correlation signature, with Bayes factors ∼2 when comparing HD to ST correlations, and ∼1 for HD plus ST correlations to HD correlations alone. However, when modeled alongside HD correlations, the amplitude and spectral index posteriors for ST correlations are uninformative, with the HD process accounting for the vast majority of the total signal. Using the optimal statistic, a frequentist technique that focuses on the pulsar-pair cross-correlations, we find median signal-to-noise ratios of 5.0 for HD and 4.6 for ST correlations when fit for separately, and median signal-to-noise ratios of 3.5 for HD and 3.0 for ST correlations when fit for simultaneously. While the signal-to-noise ratios for each of the correlations are comparable, the estimated amplitude and spectral index for HD are a significantly better fit to the total signal, in agreement with our Bayesian analysis.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2025
  6. Abstract We present the discovery and timing of the young (age ∼28.6 kyr) pulsar PSR J0837–2454. Based on its high latitude ( b = 98) and dispersion measure (DM = 143 pc cm −3 ), the pulsar appears to be at a z -height of >1 kpc above the Galactic plane, but near the edge of our Galaxy. This is many times the observed scale height of the canonical pulsar population, which suggests this pulsar may have been born far out of the plane. If accurate, the young age and high z -height imply that this is the first pulsar known to be born from a runaway O/B star. In follow-up imaging with the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA), we detect the pulsar with a flux density S 1400 = 0.18 ± 0.05 mJy. We do not detect an obvious supernova remnant around the pulsar in our ATCA data, but we detect a colocated, low-surface-brightness region of ∼15 extent in archival Galactic and Extragalactic All-sky MWA Survey data. We also detect colocated H α emission from the Southern H α Sky Survey Atlas. Distance estimates based on these two detections come out to ∼0.9 kpc and ∼0.2 kpc, respectively, both of which are much smaller than the distance predicted by the NE2001 model (6.3 kpc) and YMW model (>25 kpc) and place the pulsar much closer to the plane of the Galaxy. If the pulsar/remnant association holds, this result also highlights the inherent difficulty in the classification of transients as “Galactic” (pulsar) or “extragalactic” (fast radio burst) toward the Galactic anticenter based solely on the modeled Galactic electron contribution to a detection. 
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  7. Abstract

    Analyses of pulsar timing data have provided evidence for a stochastic gravitational wave background in the nanohertz frequency band. The most plausible source of this background is the superposition of signals from millions of supermassive black hole binaries. The standard statistical techniques used to search for this background and assess its significance make several simplifying assumptions, namely (i) Gaussianity, (ii) isotropy, and most often, (iii) a power-law spectrum. However, a stochastic background from a finite collection of binaries does not exactly satisfy any of these assumptions. To understand the effect of these assumptions, we test standard analysis techniques on a large collection of realistic simulated data sets. The data-set length, observing schedule, and noise levels were chosen to emulate the NANOGrav 15 yr data set. Simulated signals from millions of binaries drawn from models based on the Illustris cosmological hydrodynamical simulation were added to the data. We find that the standard statistical methods perform remarkably well on these simulated data sets, even though their fundamental assumptions are not strictly met. They are able to achieve a confident detection of the background. However, even for a fixed set of astrophysical parameters, different realizations of the universe result in a large variance in the significance and recovered parameters of the background. We also find that the presence of loud individual binaries can bias the spectral recovery of the background if we do not account for them.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 29, 2024
  8. Abstract

    The North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav) has reported evidence for the presence of an isotropic nanohertz gravitational-wave background (GWB) in its 15 yr data set. However, if the GWB is produced by a population of inspiraling supermassive black hole binary (SMBHB) systems, then the background is predicted to be anisotropic, depending on the distribution of these systems in the local Universe and the statistical properties of the SMBHB population. In this work, we search for anisotropy in the GWB using multiple methods and bases to describe the distribution of the GWB power on the sky. We do not find significant evidence of anisotropy. By modeling the angular power distribution as a sum over spherical harmonics (where the coefficients are not bound to always generate positive power everywhere), we find that the Bayesian 95% upper limit on the level of dipole anisotropy is (Cl=1/Cl=0) < 27%. This is similar to the upper limit derived under the constraint of positive power everywhere, indicating that the dipole may be close to the data-informed regime. By contrast, the constraints on anisotropy at higher spherical-harmonic multipoles are strongly prior dominated. We also derive conservative estimates on the anisotropy expected from a random distribution of SMBHB systems using astrophysical simulations conditioned on the isotropic GWB inferred in the 15 yr data set and show that this data set has sufficient sensitivity to probe a large fraction of the predicted level of anisotropy. We end by highlighting the opportunities and challenges in searching for anisotropy in pulsar timing array data.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2024
  9. Abstract

    The radio galaxy 3C 66B has been hypothesized to host a supermassive black hole binary (SMBHB) at its center based on electromagnetic observations. Its apparent 1.05 yr period and low redshift (∼0.02) make it an interesting testbed to search for low-frequency gravitational waves (GWs) using pulsar timing array (PTA) experiments. This source has been subjected to multiple searches for continuous GWs from a circular SMBHB, resulting in progressively more stringent constraints on its GW amplitude and chirp mass. In this paper, we develop a pipeline for performing Bayesian targeted searches for eccentric SMBHBs in PTA data sets, and test its efficacy by applying it to simulated data sets with varying injected signal strengths. We also search for a realistic eccentric SMBHB source in 3C 66B using the NANOGrav 12.5 yr data set employing PTA signal models containing Earth term-only as well as Earth+pulsar term contributions using this pipeline. Due to limitations in our PTA signal model, we get meaningful results only when the initial eccentricitye0< 0.5 and the symmetric mass ratioη> 0.1. We find no evidence for an eccentric SMBHB signal in our data, and therefore place 95% upper limits on the PTA signal amplitude of 88.1 ± 3.7 ns for the Earth term-only and 81.74 ± 0.86 ns for the Earth+pulsar term searches fore0< 0.5 andη> 0.1. Similar 95% upper limits on the chirp mass are (1.98 ± 0.05) × 109and (1.81 ± 0.01) × 109M. These upper limits, while less stringent than those calculated from a circular binary search in the NANOGrav 12.5 yr data set, are consistent with the SMBHB model of 3C 66B developed from electromagnetic observations.

     
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