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Gravitational wave astronomy with the SKA


Rosado,  P. A.
Observational Relativity and Cosmology, AEI-Hannover, MPI for Gravitational Physics, Max Planck Society;


Sesana,  A.
Astrophysical Relativity, AEI-Golm, MPI for Gravitational Physics, Max Planck Society;

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Janssen, G. H., Hobbs, G., McLaughlin, M., Bassa, C. G., Deller, A. T., Kramer, M., et al. (2015). Gravitational wave astronomy with the SKA. Proceedings of Science, PoS(AASKA14), 037. Retrieved from

On a time scale of years to decades, gravitational wave (GW) astronomy will become a reality. Low frequency (nanoHz) GWs are detectable through long-term timing observations of the most stable pulsars. Radio observatories worldwide are currently carrying out observing programmes to detect GWs, with data sets being shared through the International Pulsar Timing Array project. One of the most likely sources of low frequency GWs are supermassive black hole binaries (SMBHBs), detectable as a background due to a large number of binaries, or as continuous or burst emission from individual sources. No GW signal has yet been detected, but stringent constraints are already being placed on galaxy evolution models. The SKA will bring this research to fruition. In this chapter, we describe how timing observations using SKA1 will contribute to detecting GWs, or can confirm a detection if a first signal already has been identified when SKA1 commences observations. We describe how SKA observations will identify the source(s) of a GW signal, search for anisotropies in the background, improve models of galaxy evolution, test theories of gravity, and characterise the early inspiral phase of a SMBHB system. We describe the impact of the large number of millisecond pulsars to be discovered by the SKA; and the observing cadence, observation durations, and instrumentation required to reach the necessary sensitivity. We describe the noise processes that will influence the achievable precision with the SKA. We assume a long-term timing programme using the SKA1-MID array and consider the implications of modifications to the current design. We describe the possible benefits from observations using SKA1-LOW. Finally, we describe GW detection prospects with SKA1 and SKA2, and end with a description of the expectations of GW astronomy.