A Caltech Library Service

The gravitational-wave discovery space of pulsar timing arrays

Cutler, Curt and Burke-Spolaor, Sarah and Vallisneri, Michele and Lazio, Joseph and Majid, Walid (2014) The gravitational-wave discovery space of pulsar timing arrays. Physical Review D, 89 (4). Art. No. 042003. ISSN 2470-0010.

PDF - Published Version
See Usage Policy.

PDF - Submitted Version
See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


Recent years have seen a burgeoning interest in using pulsar timing arrays (PTAs) as gravitational-wave (GW) detectors. To date, that interest has focused mainly on three particularly promising source types: supermassive black hole binaries, cosmic strings, and the stochastic background from early-Universe phase transitions. In this paper, by contrast, our aim is to investigate the PTA potential for discovering unanticipated sources. We derive significant constraints on the available discovery space based solely on energetic and statistical considerations: we show that a PTA detection of GWs at frequencies above ∼10^(−5)  Hz would either be an extraordinary coincidence or violate “cherished beliefs;” we show that for PTAs GW memory can be more detectable than direct GWs, and that, as we consider events at ever higher redshift, the memory effect increasingly dominates an event’s total signal-to-noise ratio. The paper includes also a simple analysis of the effects of pulsar red noise in PTA searches, and a demonstration that the effects of periodic GWs in the ∼10^(−7)–10^(−4.5)  Hz band would not be degenerate with small errors in standard pulsar parameters (except in a few narrow bands).

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Paper
Burke-Spolaor, Sarah0000-0003-4052-7838
Vallisneri, Michele0000-0002-4162-0033
Majid, Walid0000-0002-4694-4221
Additional Information:© 2014 American Physical Society. Received 11 September 2013; published 18 February 2014. C. C. gratefully acknowledges support from NSF Grant No. PHY-1068881. M. V. is grateful for support from the JPL RTD program. This work was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under contract to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
JPL Research and Technology Development FundUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:4
Classification Code:PACS: 04.80.Nn, 04.30.-w, 95.85.Sz, 97.60.Gb
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20140402-133231801
Persistent URL:
Official Citation: The gravitational-wave discovery space of pulsar timing arrays Curt Cutler, Sarah Burke-Spolaor, Michele Vallisneri, Joseph Lazio, and Walid Majid Phys. Rev. D 89, 042003 (2014) – Published 18 February 2014
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:44609
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:02 Apr 2014 20:52
Last Modified:06 Nov 2019 20:50

Repository Staff Only: item control page