Understanding the gravitational-wave Hellings and Downs curve for pulsar timing arrays in terms of sound and electromagnetic waves

Fredrick A. Jenet, Joseph D. Romano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Searches for stochastic gravitational-wave backgrounds using pulsar timing arrays look for correlations in the timing residuals induced by the background across the pulsars in the array. The correlation signature of an isotropic, unpolarized gravitational-wave background predicted by general relativity follows the so-called Hellings and Downs curve, which is a relatively simple function of the angle between a pair of Earth-pulsar baselines. In this paper, we give a pedagogical discussion of the Hellings and Downs curve for pulsar timing arrays, considering simpler analogous scenarios involving sound and electromagnetic waves. We calculate Hellings-and-Downs-type functions for these two scenarios and develop a framework suitable for doing more general correlation calculations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)635-645
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Physics
Volume83
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - 2015

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