Mapping gravitational-wave backgrounds in modified theories of gravity using pulsar timing arrays

Jonathan R. Gair, Joseph D. Romano, Stephen R. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We extend our previous work on applying CMB techniques to the mapping of gravitational-wave backgrounds to backgrounds which have non-GR polarisations. Our analysis and results are presented in the context of pulsar-timing array observations, but the overarching methods are general, and can be easily applied to LIGO or eLISA observations using appropriately modified response functions. Analytic expressions for the pulsar-timing response to gravitational waves with non-GR polarisation are given for each mode of a spin-weighted spherical-harmonic decomposition of the background, which permit the signal to be mapped across the sky to any desired resolution. We also derive the pulsar-timing overlap reduction functions for the various non-GR polarisations, finding analytic forms for anisotropic backgrounds with scalar-transverse ("breathing") and vector-longitudinal polarisations, and a semi-analytic form for scalar-longitudinal backgrounds. Our results indicate that pulsar-timing observations will be completely insensitive to scalar-transverse mode anisotropies in the polarisation amplitude beyond dipole, and anisotropies in the power beyond quadrupole. Analogously to our previous findings that pulsar-timing observations lack sensitivity to tensor-curl modes for a transverse-traceless tensor background, we also find insensitivity to vector-curl modes for a vector-longitudinal background.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102003
Number of pages37
JournalPhysical Review D, particles, fields, gravitation, and cosmology
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2015


  • gr-qc


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