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Sarah Vigeland: Supermassive Black Holes and Merging Galaxies: Low-Frequency Gravitational Wave Detection with Pulsar Timing Arrays

Sarah Vigeland
Assistant Professor
Center for Gravitation, Cosmology and Astrophysics
Department of Physics, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Observations have shown that nearly all galaxies harbor massive or supermassive black holes at their centers. Gravitational wave (GW) observations of these black holes will shed light on their growth and evolution, and the merger histories of galaxies. Pulsar timing arrays (PTAs) use observations of millisecond pulsars to detect low-frequency GWs with frequencies ~1-100 nHz, and can detect GWs emitted by supermassive black hole binaries, which form when two galaxies merge. In this talk, I will discuss the current status of the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav) PTA, with an emphasis on results from our most recent search for the GW background. I will also discuss future prospects for detecting and characterizing GWs from individual supermassive binary black holes with PTAs.