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We compare the detectability of gravitational bursts passing through the solar system with those passing near each millisecond pulsar in an N-pulsar timing array. The sensitivity to Earth-passing bursts can exploit the correlation expected in pulse arrival times while pulsar-passing bursts, though uncorrelated between objects, provide an N-fold increase in overall time baseline that can compensate for the lower sensitivity. Bursts with memory from mergers of supermassive black holes produce step functions in apparent spin frequency that are the easiest to detect in pulsar timing. We show that the burst rate and amplitude distribution, while strongly dependent on inadequately known cosmological evolution, may favor detection in the pulsar terms rather than the Earth timing perturbations. Any contamination of timing data by red spin noise makes burst detection more difficult because both signals grow with the length of the time data span T. Furthermore, the different bursts that could appear in one or more data sets of length T 10yr also affect the detectability of the gravitational wave stochastic background that, like spin noise, has a red power spectrum. A burst with memory is a worthwhile target in the timing of multiple pulsars in a globular cluster because it should produce a correlated signal with a time delay of less than about 10years in some cases. © 2012. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved..


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Astrophysical Journal





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