Implications of a Fast Radio Burst from a Galactic Magnetar

Ben Margalit, Paz Beniamini, Navin Sridhar, Brian D. Metzger

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A luminous radio burst was recently detected in temporal coincidence with a hard X-ray flare from the Galactic magnetar SGR 1935+2154 with a time and frequency structure consistent with cosmological fast radio bursts (FRBs) and a fluence within a factor of ≲10 of the least energetic extragalactic FRB previously detected. Although active magnetars are commonly invoked FRB sources, several distinct mechanisms have been proposed for generating the radio emission that make different predictions for the accompanying higher-frequency radiation. We show that the properties of the coincident radio and X-ray flares from SGR 1935+2154, including their approximate simultaneity and relative fluence, as well as the duration and spectrum of the X-ray emission, are consistent with extant predictions for the synchrotron maser shock model. Rather than arising from the inner magnetosphere, the X-rays are generated by (incoherent) synchrotron radiation from thermal electrons heated at the same internal shocks that produce the coherent maser emission as ultrarelativistic flare ejecta collides with a slower particle outflow (e.g., as generated by earlier flaring activity) on a radial scale of ∼ 1011 cm. Although the rate of SGR 1935+2154-like bursts in the local universe is not sufficient to contribute appreciably to the extragalactic FRB rate, the inclusion of an additional population of more active magnetars with stronger magnetic fields than the Galactic population can explain both the FRB rate and the repeating fraction, but only if the population of active magnetars are born at a rate that is at least 2 orders of magnitude lower than that of the SGR 1935+2154-like magnetars. This may imply that the more active magnetar sources are not younger magnetars formed in a similar way to the Milky Way population (e.g., via ordinary supernovae) but are instead formed through more exotic channels, such as superluminous supernovae, accretion-induced collapse, or neutron star mergers.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberL27
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2020
Externally publishedYes

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