Among efforts to detect gravitational radiation, pulsar timing arrays are uniquely poised to detect "memory" signatures, permanent perturbations in spacetime from highly energetic astrophysical events such as mergers of supermassive black hole binaries. The North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav) observes dozens of the most stable millisecond pulsars using the Arecibo and Green Bank radio telescopes in an effort to study, among other things, gravitational wave memory. We herein present the results of a search for gravitational wave bursts with memory (BWMs) using the first five years of NANOGrav observations. We develop original methods for dramatically speeding up searches for BWM signals. In the directions of the sky where our sensitivity to BWMs is best, we would detect mergers of binaries with reduced masses of 109 M. out to distances of 30 Mpc; such massive mergers in the Virgo cluster would be marginally detectable. We find no evidence for BWMs. However, with our non-detection, we set upper limits on the rate at which BWMs of various amplitudes could have occurred during the time spanned by our data-e.g., BWMs with amplitudes greater than 10(-13) must encounter the Earth at a rate less than 1.5 yr(-1).
- gravitational waves
- general pulsars