Journal Article

Gravitational waves from resolvable massive black hole binary systems and observations with Pulsar Timing Arrays

A. Sesana, A. Vecchio and M. Volonteri

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 394, issue 4, pages 2255-2265
Published in print April 2009 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online April 2009 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2009.14499.x
Gravitational waves from resolvable massive black hole binary systems and observations with Pulsar Timing Arrays

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Massive black holes are key components of the assembly and evolution of cosmic structures, and a number of surveys are currently on going or planned to probe the demographics of these objects and to gain insight into the relevant physical processes. Pulsar Timing Arrays (PTAs) currently provide the only means to observe gravitational radiation from massive black hole binary systems with masses ≳107 M. The whole cosmic population produces a stochastic background that could be detectable with upcoming PTAs. Sources sufficiently close and/or massive generate gravitational radiation that significantly exceeds the level of the background and could be individually resolved. We consider a wide range of massive black hole binary assembly scenarios, investigate the distribution of the main physical parameters of the sources, such as masses and redshift, and explore the consequences for PTAs observations. Depending on the specific massive black hole population model, we estimate that on average at least one resolvable source produces timing residuals in the range ∼5–50 ns. PTAs, and in particular the future Square Kilometre Array, can plausibly detect these unique systems, although the events are likely to be rare. These observations would naturally complement on the high-mass end of the massive black hole distribution function future surveys carried out by the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna.

Keywords: black hole physics; gravitational waves; pulsars: general; cosmology: theory

Journal Article.  8432 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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