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Physical Review D


Pulsar timing arrays (PTAs) are currently the only experiments directly sensitive to gravitational waves with decade-long periods. Within the next five to ten years, PTAs are expected to detect the stochastic gravitational-wave background (SGWB) collectively sourced by inspiraling supermassive black hole binaries. It is expected that this background is mostly isotropic, and current searches focus on the monopole part of the SGWB. Looking ahead, anisotropies in the SGWB may provide a trove of additional information on both known and unknown astrophysical and cosmological sources. In this paper, we build a simple yet realistic Fisher formalism for anisotropic SGWB searches with PTAs. Our formalism is able to accommodate realistic properties of PTAs and allows simple and accurate forecasts. We illustrate our approach with an idealized PTA consisting of identical, isotropically distributed pulsars. In a companion paper, we apply our formalism to current PTAs and show that it can be a powerful tool to guide and optimize real data analysis.


This work is freely available courtesy of the American Phyiscal Society.

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