Periodic signatures in timedomain observations of quasars have been used to search for binary supermassive black holes (SMBHs). These searches, across existing timedomain surveys, have produced several hundred candidates. The general stochastic variability of quasars, however, can masquerade as a falsepositive periodic signal, especially when monitoring cadence and duration are limited. In this work, we predict the detectability of binary SMBHs in the upcoming Rubin Observatory Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST). We apply computationally inexpensive sinusoidal curve fits to millions of simulated LSST Deep Drilling Field light curves of both single, isolated quasars and binary quasars. The period and phase of simulated binary signals can generally be disentangled from quasar variability. Binary amplitude is overestimated and poorly recovered for twothirds of potential binaries due to quasar accretion variability. Quasars with strong intrinsic variability can obscure a binary signal too much for recovery. We also find that the most luminous quasars mimic current binary candidate light curves and their properties: The falsepositive rates are 60% for these quasars. The reliable recovery of binary period and phase for a wide range of input binary LSST light curves is promising for multimessenger characterization of binary SMBHs. However, pure electromagnetic detections of binaries using photometric periodicity with amplitude greater than 0.1 mag will result in samples that are overwhelmed by false positives. This paper represents an important and computationally inexpensive way forward for understanding the true and falsepositive rates for binary candidates identified by Rubin.
Note: When clicking on a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number, you will be taken to an external site maintained by the publisher.
Some full text articles may not yet be available without a charge during the embargo (administrative interval).
What is a DOI Number?
Some links on this page may take you to nonfederal websites. Their policies may differ from this site.

Abstract 
Abstract Supermassive black hole binaries (SMBHBs) are an inevitable consequence of galaxy mergers. At subparsec separations, they are practically impossible to resolve, and the most promising technique is to search for quasars with periodic variability. However, searches for quasar periodicity in timedomain data are challenging due to the stochastic variability of quasars. In this paper, we used Bayesian methods to disentangle periodic SMBHB signals from intrinsic damped random walk (DRW) variability in active galactic nuclei light curves. We simulated a wide variety of realistic DRW and DRW+sine light curves. Their observed properties are modeled after the Catalina Realtime Transient Survey (CRTS) and expected properties of the upcoming Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) from the Vera C. Rubin Observatory. Through a careful analysis of parameter estimation and Bayesian model selection, we investigated the range of parameter space for which binary systems can be detected. We also examined which DRW signals can mimic periodicity and be falsely classified as binary candidates. We found that periodic signals are more easily detectable if the period is short or the amplitude of the signal is large compared to the contribution of the DRW noise. We saw similar detection rates both in the CRTS and LSSTlike simulations, while the falsedetection rate depends on the quality of the data and is minimal in LSST. Our idealized simulations provide an excellent way to uncover the intrinsic limitations in quasar periodicity searches and set the stage for future searches for SMBHBs.more » « less

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 timeofarrival 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. 
Supermassive black hole binaries (SMBHBs) are an inevitable consequence of galaxy mergers. At subparsec separations, they are practically impossible to resolve and the most promising technique is to search for quasars with periodic variability. However, searches for quasar periodicity in timedomain data are challenging due to the stochastic variability of quasars. In this paper, we used Bayesian methods to disentangle periodic SMBHB signals from intrinsic damped random walk (DRW) variability in AGN light curves. We simulated a wide variety of realistic DRW and DRW+sine light curves. Their observed properties are modeled after the Catalina Realtime Transient Survey (CRTS) and expected properties of the upcoming Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) from the Vera C. Rubin Observatory. Through a careful analysis of parameter estimation and Bayesian model selection, we investigated the range of parameter space for which binary systems can be detected. We also examined which DRW signals can mimic periodicity and be falsely classified as binary candidates. We found that periodic signals are more easily detectable if the period is short or the amplitude of the signal is large compared to the contribution of the DRW noise. We saw similar detection rates both in the CRTS and LSSTlike simulations, while the false detection rate depends on the quality of the data and is minimal in LSST. Our idealized simulations provide an excellent way to uncover the intrinsic limitations in quasar periodicity searches and set the stage for future searches for SMBHBs.more » « less

Abstract With strong evidence of a commonspectrum 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 energydensity ratio of Ω_{PGW}/Ω_{SMBHB}= 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.

Abstract Recently we found compelling evidence for a gravitationalwave 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 gravitationalwave background with quadrupolar HD and scalartransverse (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 pulsarpair crosscorrelations, we find median signaltonoise ratios of 5.0 for HD and 4.6 for ST correlations when fit for separately, and median signaltonoise ratios of 3.5 for HD and 3.0 for ST correlations when fit for simultaneously. While the signaltonoise 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.
Free, publiclyaccessible full text available March 1, 2025 
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 powerlaw 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 dataset 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.
Free, publiclyaccessible full text available November 29, 2024 
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 lowfrequency 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 termonly 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 eccentricity
e _{0}< 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 termonly and 81.74 ± 0.86 ns for the Earth+pulsar term searches fore _{0}< 0.5 andη > 0.1. Similar 95% upper limits on the chirp mass are (1.98 ± 0.05) × 10^{9}and (1.81 ± 0.01) × 10^{9}M _{☉}. 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. 
Abstract The North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav) has reported evidence for the presence of an isotropic nanohertz gravitationalwave 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 (
C _{l=1}/C _{l=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 datainformed regime. By contrast, the constraints on anisotropy at higher sphericalharmonic 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.Free, publiclyaccessible full text available October 1, 2024 
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 rednoise 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.