Constraining Alternative Theories of Gravity Using Pulsar Timing Arrays

Neil J. Cornish, Logan O'Beirne, Stephen R. Taylor, Nicolás Yunes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The opening of the gravitational wave window by ground-based laser interferometers has made possible many new tests of gravity, including the first constraints on polarization. It is hoped that, within the next decade, pulsar timing will extend the window by making the first detections in the nanohertz frequency regime. Pulsar timing offers several advantages over ground-based interferometers for constraining the polarization of gravitational waves due to the many projections of the polarization pattern provided by the different lines of sight to the pulsars, and the enhanced response to longitudinal polarizations. Here, we show that existing results from pulsar timing arrays can be used to place stringent limits on the energy density of longitudinal stochastic gravitational waves. However, unambiguously distinguishing these modes from noise will be very difficult due to the large variances in the pulsar-pulsar correlation patterns. Existing upper limits on the power spectrum of pulsar timing residuals imply that the amplitude of vector longitudinal (VL) and scalar longitudinal (SL) modes at frequencies of 1/year are constrained, AVL<4×10-16 and ASL<4×10-17, while the bounds on the energy density for a scale invariant cosmological background are ΩVLh2<4×10-11 and ΩSLh2<3×10-13.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number181101
JournalPhysical review letters
Issue number18
StatePublished - May 4 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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