Undergraduate Thesis Or Project

Effect of Solar System Models on Pulsar Timing Experiments

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  • Gravitational wave (GW) astronomy is a key ingredient in confirming Einstein’s theory of General Relativity and showing how the universe sends ripples through spacetime, distorting distances between two points. The confirmation of high-frequency GWs observed by The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in 2015 was a breakthrough in our understanding of general relativity and was the start of a new field of observational astronomy. Pulsar timing arrays are currently a promising experiment for the detection of low-frequency gravitational waves, with the potential to detect a stochastic gravitational wave background. Recently, an international group of pulsar timing array researchers discovered an inconsistency in the difference between the expected and actual time of arrivals (timing residuals) in a local pulsar J1909. As they switched between solar system models (DE414 and DE436) there were higher timing residuals in the newer model, DE436, which is worrisome given that residuals should decrease as we increase precision. We propose these residuals are most likely affected by the difference in Roemer delay, a light travel time distortion due to earth-sun orbit radii changing, between the two models. We show that the Roemer delay difference between two solar system models can mimic a stochastic gravitational wave background around 30% of the time confirming this occurs in nature.
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