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  1. Abstract

    We use the upgraded Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (uGMRT) to measure scintillation arc properties in six bright canonical pulsars with simultaneous dual-frequency coverage. These observations, at frequencies from 300 to 750 MHz, allowed for detailed analysis of arc evolution across frequency and epoch. We perform more robust determinations of frequency dependence for arc curvature, scintillation bandwidth, and scintillation timescale, and comparison between arc curvature and pseudo-curvature than allowed by single-frequency-band-per-epoch measurements, which we find to agree with theory and previous literature. We find a strong correlation between arc asymmetry and arc curvature, which we have replicated using simulations, and attribute to a bias in the Hough transform approach to scintillation arc analysis. Possible evidence for an approximately week-long timescale over which a given scattering screen dominates signal propagation was found by tracking visible scintillation arcs in each epoch in PSR J1136+1551. The inclusion of a 155-minute observation allowed us to resolve the scale of scintillation variations on short timescales, which we find to be directly tied to the amount of interstellar medium sampled over the observation. Some of our pulsars showed either consistent or emerging asymmetries in arc curvature, indicating instances of refraction across their lines of sight. Significant features in various pulsars, such as multiple scintillation arcs in PSR J1136+1551 and flat arclets in PSR J1509+5531, that have been found in previous works, were also detected. The simultaneous multiple-band observing capability of the upgraded GMRT shows excellent promise for future pulsar scintillation work.

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    Observations of pulsar scintillation are among the few astrophysical probes of very small-scale (≲ au) phenomena in the interstellar medium (ISM). In particular, characterization of scintillation arcs, including their curvature and intensity distributions, can be related to interstellar turbulence and potentially overpressurized plasma in local ISM inhomogeneities, such as supernova remnants, H ii regions, and bow shocks. Here we present a survey of eight pulsars conducted at the Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), revealing a diverse range of scintillation arc characteristics at high sensitivity. These observations reveal more arcs than measured previously for our sample. At least nine arcs are observed toward B1929+10 at screen distances spanning $\sim 90~{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ of the pulsar’s 361 pc path length to the observer. Four arcs are observed toward B0355+54, with one arc yielding a screen distance as close as ∼105 au (<1 pc) from either the pulsar or the observer. Several pulsars show highly truncated, low-curvature arcs that may be attributable to scattering near the pulsar. The scattering screen constraints are synthesized with continuum maps of the local ISM and other well-characterized pulsar scintillation arcs, yielding a three-dimensional view of the scattering media in context.

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  3. Abstract

    We simulate scattering delays from the interstellar medium to examine the effectiveness of three estimators in recovering these delays in pulsar timing data. Two of these estimators use the more traditional process of fitting autocorrelation functions to pulsar dynamic spectra to extract scintillation bandwidths, while the third estimator uses the newer technique of cyclic spectroscopy on baseband pulsar data to recover the interstellar medium’s impulse response function. We find that either fitting a Lorentzian or Gaussian distribution to an autocorrelation function or recovering the impulse response function from the cyclic spectrum are, on average, accurate in recovering scattering delays, although autocorrelation function estimators have a large variance, even at high signal-to-noise ratio (S/N). We find that, given sufficient S/N, cyclic spectroscopy is more accurate than both Gaussian and Lorentzian fitting for recovering scattering delays at specific epochs, suggesting that cyclic spectroscopy is a superior method for scattering estimation in high-quality data.

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  4. Abstract High-sensitivity interstellar scintillation and polarization observations of PSR B0656+14 made at three epochs over a year using the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) show that the scattering is dominated by two different compact regions. We identify the one nearer to the pulsar with the shell of the Monogem Ring, thereby confirming the association. The other is probably associated with the Local Bubble. We find that the observed position angles of the pulsar spin axis and the spatial velocity are significantly different, with a separation of 19.°3 ± 0.°8, inconsistent with a previously published near-perfect alignment of 1° ± 2°. The two independent scattering regions are clearly defined in the secondary spectra, which show two strong forward parabolic arcs. The arc curvatures imply that the scattering screens corresponding to the outer and inner arcs are located approximately 28 pc from PSR B0656+14 and 185 pc from the Earth, respectively. Comparison of the observed Doppler profiles with electromagnetic simulations shows that both scattering regions are mildly anisotropic. For the outer arc, we estimate the anisotropy A R to be approximately 1.3, with the scattering irregularities aligned parallel to the pulsar velocity. For the outer arc, we compare the observed delay profiles with delay profiles computed from a theoretical strong-scattering model. Our results suggest that the spatial spectrum of the scattering irregularities in the Monogem Ring is flatter than Kolmogorov, but further observations are required to confirm this. 
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  5. Abstract

    The interstellar medium hosts a population of scattering screens, most of unknown origin. Scintillation studies of pulsars provide a sensitive tool for resolving these scattering screens and a means of measuring their properties. In this paper, we report our analysis of 34 yr of Arecibo observations of PSR B1133 + 16, from which we have obtained high-quality dynamic spectra and their associated scintillation arcs, arising from the scattering screens located along the line of sight to the pulsar. We have identified six individual scattering screens that are responsible for the observed scintillation arcs, which persist for decades. Using the assumption that the scattering screens have not changed significantly in this time, we have modeled the variations in arc curvature throughout the Earth’s orbit and extracted information about the placement, orientation, and velocity of five of the six screens, with the highest-precision distance measurement placing a screen at just5.460.59+0.54pc from the Earth. We associate the more distant of these screens with an underdense region of the Local Bubble.

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  6. 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
  7. Abstract

    We present the results of a Bayesian search for gravitational wave (GW) memory in the NANOGrav 12.5 yr data set. We find no convincing evidence for any gravitational wave memory signals in this data set. We find a Bayes factor of 2.8 in favor of a model that includes a memory signal and common spatially uncorrelated red noise (CURN) compared to a model including only a CURN. However, further investigation shows that a disproportionate amount of support for the memory signal comes from three dubious pulsars. Using a more flexible red-noise model in these pulsars reduces the Bayes factor to 1.3. Having found no compelling evidence, we go on to place upper limits on the strain amplitude of GW memory events as a function of sky location and event epoch. These upper limits are computed using a signal model that assumes the existence of a common, spatially uncorrelated red noise in addition to a GW memory signal. The median strain upper limit as a function of sky position is approximately 3.3 × 10−14. We also find that there are some differences in the upper limits as a function of sky position centered around PSR J0613−0200. This suggests that this pulsar has some excess noise that can be confounded with GW memory. Finally, the upper limits as a function of burst epoch continue to improve at later epochs. This improvement is attributable to the continued growth of the pulsar timing array.

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  8. Abstract Evidence for a low-frequency stochastic gravitational-wave background has recently been reported based on analyses of pulsar timing array data. The most likely source of such a background is a population of supermassive black hole binaries, the loudest of which may be individually detected in these data sets. Here we present the search for individual supermassive black hole binaries in the NANOGrav 15 yr data set. We introduce several new techniques, which enhance the efficiency and modeling accuracy of the analysis. The search uncovered weak evidence for two candidate signals, one with a gravitational-wave frequency of ∼4 nHz, and another at ∼170 nHz. The significance of the low-frequency candidate was greatly diminished when Hellings–Downs correlations were included in the background model. The high-frequency candidate was discounted due to the lack of a plausible host galaxy, the unlikely astrophysical prior odds of finding such a source, and since most of its support comes from a single pulsar with a commensurate binary period. Finding no compelling evidence for signals from individual binary systems, we place upper limits on the strain amplitude of gravitational waves emitted by such systems. At our most sensitive frequency of 6 nHz, we place a sky-averaged 95% upper limit of 8 × 10 −15 on the strain amplitude. We also calculate an exclusion volume and a corresponding effective radius, within which we can rule out the presence of black hole binaries emitting at a given frequency. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  9. Abstract We present observations and timing analyses of 68 millisecond pulsars (MSPs) comprising the 15 yr data set of the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav). NANOGrav is a pulsar timing array (PTA) experiment that is sensitive to low-frequency gravitational waves (GWs). This is NANOGrav’s fifth public data release, including both “narrowband” and “wideband” time-of-arrival (TOA) measurements and corresponding pulsar timing models. We have added 21 MSPs and extended our timing baselines by 3 yr, now spanning nearly 16 yr for some of our sources. The data were collected using the Arecibo Observatory, the Green Bank Telescope, and the Very Large Array between frequencies of 327 MHz and 3 GHz, with most sources observed approximately monthly. A number of notable methodological and procedural changes were made compared to our previous data sets. These improve the overall quality of the TOA data set and are part of the transition to new pulsar timing and PTA analysis software packages. For the first time, our data products are accompanied by a full suite of software to reproduce data reduction, analysis, and results. Our timing models include a variety of newly detected astrometric and binary pulsar parameters, including several significant improvements to pulsar mass constraints. We find that the time series of 23 pulsars contain detectable levels of red noise, 10 of which are new measurements. In this data set, we find evidence for a stochastic GW background. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 29, 2024