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Vanderbilt researchers contribute to promising global search for gravitational waves | tidings

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An international team that includes Assistant Professor of Physics and AstronomyStephen Taylor, postdoctoral student in multi-message astrophysics Nihan Pol, graduate student William Lamb and recent graduate student Levi Schulthas published the latest gravitational wave research results showing strong evidence for a low frequency signal. Such a signal can hint at gravitational waves, which can be detected very quickly. They also reinforce the emergence of similar signals that have been found in individual participatory data sets in recent years, includingrecent results from the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav) locally led by Taylor and his team.

LThe ow frequency gravitational waves originate from pairs of supermassive black holes in orbits or from events that occurred immediately after the Big Bang. The discovery of these signals will open a new window into the spectrum of gravitational waves and help scientists improve their understanding of galaxy evolution, their central black holes, and the early universe.

Data were collected by the international consortium of Pulsar Timing Array; is the result of combined data sets independent of NANOGrav, European Pulsar Timing Array and Australias Parkes Pulsar Timing Array.

Data, calledPublication of data 2, was analyzed in the article Second publication of Pulsar Time International Array data: Search for an isotropic background of gravitational waves, which was published in the magazineMonthly Announcements of the Royal Astronomical Societyin January. 12.

Artists’ impression of the IPTA experiment A set of pulsars around the Earth embedded in a background of gravitational waves from supermassive black hole rails. Signals from pulses, measured by a network of global radio telescopes, are influenced by gravitational waves and allow the study of the origin of the background. (Tonia Klein / NANOGrav NSF Physics Frontier Center)

By bringing together independent data sets from around the world, we see a stronger overall signal because we get more data, Taylor said. For the first time, we have searched for low frequency gravitational waves in this fused data set and, in the process, we have confirmed some of the latest exciting results from modern NANOGravdata and other individual pulsar time teams. All this was made possible thanks to the power of cooperation and international cooperation.

In addition to searching this data set for gravitational waves, we made an extensive comparison between individual data sets from large regional scientific collaborations and the combined data set, Paul said. Our early detection of this signal is the first step towards finding clear evidence of gravitational waves. But we need to monitor more pulsars. We will continue to observe these pulsars, and young ones, to obtain a confirmed discovery.

The international group agreed that what they discovered so far is typical of what is found in a background of the entire sky of gravitational waves. The signal we found may come from a cosmic population of supermassive binary black hole pairs orbiting each other. When everyone sends GW together, the result is like hearing a lot of overlapping voices in a crowded room, Taylor said. This analysis shows the strength of international cooperation and data combination. But this is not yet conclusive evidence.

To definitively identify the gravitational wave background as the origin of the low-frequency detected signal, IPTA must also detect highly correlated pulsars; this means that each pair of pulsars must respond in a very specific way to gravitational waves depending on their location in the sky. These correlations between pairs of pulsars are the smoking pistol for detecting the background of gravitational waves; without them, it is difficult to prove that any other process is not responsible for the signal.

This is a very exciting signal! said Siyuan Chen, a member of EPTA and NANOGravand head of research and publication of IPTA DR2. Although we do not yet have definitive evidence, we may have begun to discover a background of gravitational waves.

NANOGrav collects data using telescopes in Puerto Rico, West Virginia, New Mexico, British Columbia and China, the first two of which were used to produce a nine-year data set. NANOGrav before reportedindependent evidence of a potential gravitational wave signal in its 12.5-year data set. Using the tools and techniques developed for their work, NANOGrav members have played a leading role in the analysis of IPTA DR2.

Work is ongoing on the release of IPTA 3 data, which will, at the very least, include updated datasets from the four IPTA components from North America, Europe, Australia and India. Our team will work closely with our international collaborators at IPTA to design, build and analyze this new data set to make exciting new advances in gravitational waves, Taylor said. Vanderbilt researchers in the project include postdoctoral collaborators MariaCarisiand Paul; graduate students Lamb, Polina Petrov and Kyle Gersbach; and seniors Katie Cella and Joanna Wang.

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