Gravitational waves from individual supermassive black hole binaries in circular orbits: Limits from the North American Nanohertz Observatory for gravitational waves

Z. Arzoumanian, A. Brazier, S. Burke-Spolaor, S. J. Chamberlin, S. Chatterjee, J. M. Cordes, P. B. Demorest, X. Deng, T. Dolch, J. A. Ellis, R. D. Ferdman, N. Garver-Daniels, F. Jenet, G. Jones, V. M. Kaspi, M. Koop, M. T. Lam, T. J. W. Lazio, A. N. Lommen, D. R. LorimerJ. Luo, R. S. Lynch, D. R. Madison, M. A. McLaughlin, S. T. McWilliams, D. J. Nice, N. Palliyaguru, T. T. Pennucci, S. M. Ransom, A. Sesana, X. Siemens, I. H. Stairs, D. R. Stinebring, K. Stovall, J. Swiggum, M. Vallisneri, R. van Haasteren, Y. Wang, W. W. Zhu, NANOGrav Collaboration

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101 Citations (Scopus)


We perform a search for continuous gravitational waves from individual supermassive black hole binaries using robust frequentist and Bayesian techniques. We augment standard pulsar timing models with the addition of time-variable dispersion measure and frequency variable pulse shape terms. We apply our techniques to the Five Year Data Release from the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves. We find that there is no evidence for the presence of a detectable continuous gravitational wave; however, we can use these data to place the most constraining upper limits to date on the strength of such gravitational waves. Using the full 17 pulsar data set we place a 95% upper limit on the strain amplitude of h(0) less than or similar to 3.0 x 10(-14) at a frequency of 10 nHz. Furthermore, we place 95% sky-averaged lower limits on the luminosity distance to such gravitational wave sources, finding that dL greater than or similar to 425 Mpc for sources at a frequency of 10 nHz and chirp mass 10(10) M-circle dot. We find that for gravitational wave sources near our best timed pulsars in the sky, the sensitivity of the pulsar timing array is increased by a factor of similar to four over the sky-averaged sensitivity. Finally we place limits on the coalescence rate of the most massive supermassive black hole binaries.

Original languageEnglish
Article number141
Number of pages19
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • gravitation
  • general pulsars

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