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Search for scalar induced gravitational waves in the international pulsar timing array data release 2 and NANOgrav 12.5 years datasets

Virgile Dandoy, Valerie Domcke, Fabrizio Rompineve

SciPost Phys. Core 6, 060 (2023) · published 30 August 2023


We perform a Bayesian search in the latest Pulsar Timing Array (PTA) datasets for a stochastic gravitational wave (GW) background sourced by curvature perturbations at scales $10^5$ Mpc$^{-1}\lesssim$ k$\lesssim 10^8$ Mpc$^{-1}$. These re-enter the Hubble horizon at temperatures around and below the QCD crossover phase transition in the early Universe. We include a stochastic background of astrophysical origin in our search and properly account for constraints on the curvature power spectrum from the overproduction of primordial black holes (PBHs). We find that the International PTA Data Release 2 significantly favors the astrophysical model for its reported common-spectrum process, over the curvature-induced background. On the other hand, the two interpretations fit the NANOgrav 12.5 years dataset equally well. We then set new upper limits on the amplitude of the curvature power spectrum at small scales. These are independent from, and competitive with, indirect astrophysical bounds from the abundance of PBH dark matter. Upcoming PTA data releases will provide the strongest probe of the curvature power spectrum around the QCD epoch.

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