Signatures of the neutrino thermal history in the spectrum of primordial gravitational waves

Riccardo Benini, Massimiliano Lattanzi, Giovanni Montani

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4 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper we study the effect of the anisotropic stress generated by neutrinos on the propagation of primordial cosmological gravitational waves. The presence of anisotropic stress, like the one generated by free-streaming neutrinos, partially absorbs the gravitational waves (GWs) propagating across the Universe. We find that in the standard case of three neutrino families, 22% of the intensity of the wave is absorbed, in fair agreement with previous studies. We have also calculated the maximum possible amount of damping, corresponding to the case of a flat Universe completely dominated by ultrarelativistic collisionless particles. In this case 43% of the intensity of the wave is absorbed. Finally, we have taken into account the effect of collisions, using a simple form for the collision term parameterized by the mean time between interactions, that allows to go smoothly from the case of a tightly coupled fluid to that of a collisionless gas. The dependence of the absorption on the neutrino energy density and on the effectiveness of the interactions opens the interesting possibility of observing spectral features related to particular events in the thermal history of the Universe, like neutrino decoupling and electron-positron annihilation, both occurring at T ~ 1 MeV. GWS entering the horizon at that time will have today a frequency ν ~ 10-9Hz, a region that is going to be probed by Pulsar Timing Arrays. © 2010 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)945 - 958
Number of pages14
JournalGeneral Relativity and Gravitation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)

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