The NANOGrav 11 yr data set: Evolution of gravitational-wave background statistics
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- An ensemble of inspiraling supermassive black hole binaries should produce a stochastic background of very low frequency gravitational waves. This stochastic background is predicted to be a power law, with a gravitational-wave strain spectral index of −2/3, and it should be detectable by a network of precisely timed millisecond pulsars, widely distributed on the sky. This paper reports a new "time slicing" analysis of the 11 yr data release from the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav) using 34 millisecond pulsars. Methods to flag potential "false-positive" signatures are developed, including techniques to identify responsible pulsars. Mitigation strategies are then presented. We demonstrate how an incorrect noise model can lead to spurious signals, and we show how independently modeling noise across 30 Fourier components, spanning NANOGrav's frequency range, effectively diagnoses and absorbs the excess power in gravitational-wave searches. This results in a nominal, and expected, progression of our gravitational-wave statistics. Additionally, we show that the first interstellar medium event in PSR J1713+0747 pollutes the common red-noise process with low spectral index noise, and we use a tailored noise model to remove these effects.