Placing limits on the stochastic gravitational-wave background using European Pulsar Timing Array data

Abstract : Direct detection of low-frequency gravitational waves ($10^{-9} - 10^{-8}$ Hz) is the main goal of pulsar timing array (PTA) projects. One of the main targets for the PTAs is to measure the stochastic background of gravitational waves (GWB) whose characteristic strain is expected to approximately follow a power-law of the form $h_c(f)=A (f/\hbox{yr}^{-1})^{\alpha}$, where $f$ is the gravitational-wave frequency. In this paper we use the current data from the European PTA to determine an upper limit on the GWB amplitude $A$ as a function of the unknown spectral slope $\alpha$ with a Bayesian algorithm, by modelling the GWB as a random Gaussian process. For the case $\alpha=-2/3$, which is expected if the GWB is produced by supermassive black-hole binaries, we obtain a 95% confidence upper limit on $A$ of $6\times 10^{-15}$, which is 1.8 times lower than the 95% confidence GWB limit obtained by the Parkes PTA in 2006. Our approach to the data analysis incorporates the multi-telescope nature of the European PTA and thus can serve as a useful template for future intercontinental PTA collaborations.
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R. van Haasteren, Y. Levin, G. H. Janssen, K. Lazaridis, G. Desvignes, et al.. Placing limits on the stochastic gravitational-wave background using European Pulsar Timing Array data. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Oxford University Press (OUP): Policy P - Oxford Open Option A, 2011, 414 (4), pp.3117-3128. ⟨10.1111/j.1365-2966.2011.18613.x⟩. ⟨insu-01263728⟩

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