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Published May 20, 2018 | Published + Submitted
Journal Article Open

The NANOGrav 11 Year Data Set: Pulsar-timing Constraints on the Stochastic Gravitational-wave Background


We search for an isotropic stochastic gravitational-wave background (GWB) in the newly released 11 year data set from the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav). While we find no evidence for a GWB, we place constraints on a population of inspiraling supermassive black hole (SMBH) binaries, a network of decaying cosmic strings, and a primordial GWB. For the first time, we find that the GWB constraints are sensitive to the solar system ephemeris (SSE) model used and that SSE errors can mimic a GWB signal. We developed an approach that bridges systematic SSE differences, producing the first pulsar-timing array (PTA) constraints that are robust against SSE errors. We thus place a 95% upper limit on the GW-strain amplitude of A_(GWB) < 1.45 × 10^(−15) at a frequency of f = 1 yr^(−1) for a fiducial f^(−2/3) power-law spectrum and with interpulsar correlations modeled. This is a factor of ~2 improvement over the NANOGrav nine-year limit calculated using the same procedure. Previous PTA upper limits on the GWB (as well as their astrophysical and cosmological interpretations) will need revision in light of SSE systematic errors. We use our constraints to characterize the combined influence on the GWB of the stellar mass density in galactic cores, the eccentricity of SMBH binaries, and SMBH–galactic-bulge scaling relationships. We constrain the cosmic-string tension using recent simulations, yielding an SSE-marginalized 95% upper limit of Gμ < 5.3 × 10^(−11)—a factor of ~2 better than the published NANOGrav nine-year constraints. Our SSE-marginalized 95% upper limit on the energy density of a primordial GWB (for a radiation-dominated post-inflation universe) is Ω_(GWB)(f) h^2 < 3.4 × 10^(−10).

Additional Information

© 2018 The American Astronomical Society. Received 2017 December 19; revised 2018 March 31; accepted 2018 April 8; published 2018 May 23. We thank the referee for useful suggestions and comments that improved the quality of this manuscript. The NANOGrav project receives support from NSF Physics Frontier Center award number 1430284. NANOGrav research at UBC is supported by an NSERC Discovery Grant and Discovery Accelerator Supplement and by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. We thank our colleagues in the International Pulsar Timing Array for comments and useful discussions. We thank Alberto Sesana for commenting on our astrophysical modeling and interpretation. M.V. and J.S. acknowledge support from the JPL RTD program. Portions of this research were carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. S.R.T. was partially supported by an appointment to the NASA Postdoctoral Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, administered by Oak Ridge Associated Universities through a contract with NASA. S.R.T. thanks E.R.S. for fruitful discussions. J.A.E. was partially supported by NASA through Einstein Fellowship grant PF4-150120. S.B.S. was supported by NSF award #1458952. P.T.B. acknowledges support from the West Virginia University Center for Gravitational Waves and Cosmology. M.A.M. was partially supported by NSF award OIA-1458952. W.W.Z. is supported by the CAS Pioneer Hundred Talents Program and the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences grant No. XDB23000000. R.v.H. was supported by NASA Einstein Fellowship grant PF3-140116. This work was supported in part by National Science Foundation grant No. PHYS-1066293 and by the hospitality of the Aspen Center for Physics. Portions of this work performed at NRL are supported by the Chief of Naval Research. This research was performed in part using the Zwicky computer cluster at Caltech supported by NSF under MRI-R2 award No. PHY-0960291 and by the Sherman Fairchild Foundation. A majority of the computational work was performed on the Nemo cluster at UWM supported by NSF grant No. 0923409. Parts of the analysis in this work were carried out on the Nimrod cluster made available by S.M.R. Data for this project were collected using the facilities of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and the Arecibo Observatory. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the NSF operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc. The Green Bank Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc. The Arecibo Observatory is operated by SRI International under a cooperative agreement with the NSF (AST-1100968), and in alliance with Ana G. Méndez-Universidad Metropolitana and the Universities Space Research Association. This research is part of the Blue Waters sustained-petascale computing project, which is supported by the National Science Foundation (awards OCI-0725070 and ACI-1238993) and the state of Illinois. Blue Waters is a joint effort of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and its National Center for Supercomputing Applications. Some of the algorithms used in this article were optimized using the Blue Waters allocation "Accelerating the detection of gravitational waves with GPUs." The Flatiron Institute is supported by the Simons Foundation.

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Published - Arzoumanian_2018_ApJ_859_47.pdf

Submitted - 1801.02617.pdf


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August 19, 2023
October 18, 2023