Empirical constraints on the origin of fast radio bursts: volumetric rates and host galaxy demographics as a test of millisecond magnetar connection

M. Nicholl, P. K. G. Williams, E. Berger, V. A. Villar, K. D. Alexander, T. Eftekhari, B. D. Metzger

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95 Citations (Scopus)


The localization of the repeating fast radio burst (FRB) 121102 to a low-metallicity dwarf galaxy at z = 0.193, and its association with a luminous quiescent radio source, suggests the possibility that FRBs originate from magnetars, formed by the unusual supernovae that occur in such galaxies. We investigate this possibility via a comparison of magnetar birth rates, the FRB volumetric rate, and host galaxy demographics. We calculate average volumetricrates of possible millisecond magnetar production channels, such as superluminous supernovae (SLSNe), long andshort gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), and general magnetar production via core-collapse supernovae (CCSNe). Foreach channel, we also explore the expected host galaxy demographics using their known properties. We determinefor the first time the number density of FRB emitters (the product of their volumetric birth rate and lifetime),RFRB 104 t » Gpc−3, assuming that FRBs are predominantly emitted from repetitive sources similar toFRB 121102 and adopting a beaming factor of 0.1. By comparing rates, we find that production via rarechannels (SLSNe, GRBs) implies a typical FRB lifetime of ∼30–300 years, in good agreement with other lines ofargument. The total energy emitted over this time is consistent with the available energy stored in the magneticfield. On the other hand, any relation to magnetars produced via normal CCSNe leads to a very short lifetime of∼0.5 years, in conflict with both theory and observation. We demonstrate that due to the diverse host galaxydistributions of the different progenitor channels, many possible sources of FRB birth can be ruled out with 10host galaxy identifications. Conversely, targeted searches of galaxies that have previously hosted decades-oldSLSNe and GRBs may be a fruitful strategy for discovering new FRBs and related quiescent radio sources, and determining the nature of their progenitors.
Original languageEnglish
Article number84
Number of pages9
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 06 Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • galaxies: dwarf
  • gamma-ray burst: general
  • radio continuum: general
  • relativistic processes
  • stars: magnetars
  • supernovae: general
  • Astrophysics - High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena
  • Astrophysics - Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics


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