The Gravitational-Wave Universe seen by Pulsar Timing Arrays
California Institute of Technology
Galaxy mergers are a standard aspect of galaxy formation and evolution, and most (likely all) large galaxies contain supermassive black holes. As part of the merging process, the supermassive black holes should in-spiral together and eventually merge, generating a background of gravitational radiation in the nanohertz and microhertz regime. Processes in the early Universe such as relic gravitational waves and cosmic strings may also generate gravitational radiation in the same frequency band. An array of precisely timed pulsars spread across the sky can form a galactic-scale gravitational wave detector in the nanohertz band, with Vicky Kaspi and colleagues setting some of the earliest limits on the gravitational-wave background with such a pulsar timing array in 1994. I describe the subsequent efforts to develop the pulsar timing array concept, and the recent limits that have emerged from North American and international efforts, including McGill and UBC, to constrain astrophysical phenomena at the heart of supermassive black hole mergers.
Date: Tuesday, 31 May 2016 Time: 15:30 Where: McGill University Ernest Rutherford Physics Building, R.E. Bell Conference Room (room 103) Contact: Robert Rutledge