Astrometric Search Method for Individually Resolvable Gravitational Wave Sources with Gaia.

01 May 2018

Gravitational waves (GWs) cause the apparent position of distant stars to oscillate with a characteristic pattern on the sky. Astrometric measurements (e.g., those made by Gaia) provide a new way to search for GWs. The main difficulty facing such a search is the large size of the data set; Gaia observes more than one billion stars. In this Letter the problem of searching for GWs from individually resolvable supermassive black hole binaries using astrometry is addressed for the first time; it is demonstrated how the data set can be compressed by a factor of more than 10^{6}, with a loss of sensitivity of less than 1%. This technique was successfully used to recover artificially injected GW signals from mock Gaia data and to assess the GW sensitivity of Gaia. Throughout the Letter the complementarity of Gaia and pulsar timing searches for GWs is highlighted.