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Publication# Probing the gravitational wave background from cosmic strings with LISA

Abstract

Cosmic string networks offer one of the best prospects for detection of cosmological gravitational waves (GWs). The combined incoherent GW emission of a large number of string loops leads to a stochastic GW background (SGWB), which encodes the properties of the string network. In this paper we analyze the ability of the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) to measure this background, considering leading models of the string networks. We find that LISA will be able to probe cosmic strings with tensions G mu greater than or similar to O(10(-17)), improving by about 6 orders of magnitude current pulsar timing arrays (PTA) constraints, and potentially 3 orders of magnitude with respect to expected constraints from next generation PTA observatories. We include in our analysis possible modifications of the SGWB spectrum due to different hypotheses regarding cosmic history and the underlying physics of the string network. These include possible modifications in the SGWB spectrum due to changes in the number of relativistic degrees of freedom in the early Universe, the presence of a non-standard equation of state before the onset of radiation domination, or changes to the network dynamics due to a string inter-commutation probability less than unity. In the event of a detection, LISA's frequency band is well-positioned to probe such cosmic events. Our results constitute a thorough exploration of the cosmic string science that will be accessible to LISA.

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The stochastic gravitational wave background (SGWB) contains a wealth of information on astrophysical and cosmological processes. A major challenge of upcoming years will be to extract the information contained in this background and to disentangle the contributions of different sources. In this paper we provide the formalism to extract, from the correlation of three signals in the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), information about the tensor three-point function, which characterizes the non-Gaussian properties of the SGWB. This observable can be crucial to discriminate whether a SGWB has a primordial or astrophysical origin. Compared to the two-point function, the SGWB three-point function has a richer dependence on the gravitational wave momenta and chiralities. It can be used therefore as a powerful discriminator between different models. For the first time we provide the response functions of LISA to a general SGWB three-point function. As examples, we study in full detail the cases of an equilateral and squeezed SGWB bispectra, and provide the explicit form of the response functions, ready to be convoluted with any theoretical prediction of the bispectrum to obtain the observable signal. We further derive the optimal estimator to compute the signal-to-noise ratio. Our formalism covers general shapes of non-Gaussianity, and can be extended straightaway to other detector geometries. Finally, we provide a short overview of models of the early universe that can give rise to a non-Gaussian SGWB.

The expansion history of the Universe between the end of inflation and the onset of radiation-domination (RD) is currently unknown. If the equation of state during this period is stiffer than that of radiation, w > 1/3, the gravitational wave (GW) background from inflation acquires a blue-tilt d log rho GW/d log f = 2(w-1/3)/(w+1/3) > 0 at frequencies f >> f(RD) corresponding to modes re-entering the horizon during the stiff-domination (SD), where f(RD) is the frequency today of the horizon scale at the SD-to-RD transition. We characterized in detail the transfer function of the GW energy density spectrum, considering both 'instant' and smooth modelings of the SD-to-RD transition. The shape of the spectrum is controlled by w, f(RD), and H-inf (the Hubble scale of inflation). We determined the parameter space compatible with a detection of this signal by LIGO and LISA, including possible changes in the number of relativistic degrees of freedom, and the presence of a tensor tilt. Consistency with upper bounds on stochastic GW backgrounds, however, rules out a significant fraction of the observable parameter space. We find that this renders the signal unobservable by Advanced LIGO, in all cases. The GW background remains detectable by LISA, though only in a small island of parameter space, corresponding to scenarios with an equation of state in the range 0.46 less than or similar to w less than or similar to 0.56 and a high inflationary scale H-inf greater than or similar to 10(13) GeV, but low reheating temperature 1 MeV less than or similar to T-RD less than or similar to 150 MeV (equivalently, 10(-11) Hz less than or similar to f(RD) less than or similar to 3.6.10(-9) Hz). Implications for early Universe scenarios resting upon an SD epoch are briefly discussed.

A metastable cosmic-string network is a generic consequence of many grand unified theories (GUTs) when combined with cosmic inflation. Metastable cosmic strings are not topologically stable, but decay on cosmic time scales due to pair production of GUT monopoles. This leads to a network consisting of metastable long strings on superhorizon scales as well as of string loops and segments on subhorizon scales. We compute for the first time the complete stochastic gravitational-wave background (SGWB) arising from all these network constituents, including several technical improvements to both the derivation of the loop and segment contributions. We find that the gravitational waves emitted by string loops provide the main contribution to the gravitational-wave spectrum in the relevant parameter space. The resulting spectrum is consistent with the tentative signal observed by the NANOGrav and Parkes pulsar timing collaborations for a string tension of G mu similar to 10(-11...-7) and has ample discovery space for ground- and space-based detectors. For GUT-scale string tensions, G mu similar to 10(-8...-7), metastable strings predict a SGWB in the LIGO-Virgo-KAGRA band that could be discovered in the near future.