January 15, 2024

Propagation effects at low frequencies seen in the LOFAR long-term monitoring of the periodically active FRB 20180916B

LOFAR (LOw Frequency ARray) has previously detected bursts from the periodically active, repeating fast radio burst (FRB) source FRB 20180916B down to unprecedentedly low radio frequencies of 110 MHz. Here, we present 11 new bursts in 223 more hours of continued monitoring of FRB 20180916B in the 110-188 MHz band with LOFAR. We place new constraints on the source's activity window w = 4.3+0.7-0.2 d and phase centre phicLOFAR = 0.67+0.03-0.02 in its 16.33-d activity cycle, strengthening evidence for its frequency-dependent activity cycle. Propagation effects like Faraday rotation and scattering are especially pronounced at low frequencies and constrain properties of FRB 20180916B's local environment. We track variations in scattering and time-frequency drift rates, and find no evidence for trends in time or activity phase. Faraday rotation measure (RM) variations seen between June 2021 and August 2022 show a fractional change >50 per cent with hints of flattening of the gradient of the previously reported secular trend seen at 600 MHz. The frequency-dependent window of activity at LOFAR appears stable despite the significant changes in RM, leading us to deduce that these two effects have different causes. Depolarization of and within individual bursts towards lower radio frequencies is quantified using LOFAR's large fractional bandwidth, with some bursts showing no detectable polarization. However, the degree of depolarization seems uncorrelated to the scattering time-scales, allowing us to evaluate different depolarization models. We discuss these results in the context of models that invoke rotation, precession, or binary orbital motion to explain the periodic activity of FRB 20180916B.

Gopinath et al. 2024, MNRAS.

January 04, 2024

A link between repeating and non-repeating fast radio bursts through their energy distributions

Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are extremely energetic, millisecond-duration radio flashes that reach Earth from extragalactic distances. Broadly speaking, FRBs can be classified as repeating or (apparently) non-repeating. It is still unclear, however, whether the two types share a common physical origin and differ only in their activity rate. Here we report on an observing campaign that targeted one hyperactive repeating source, FRB 20201124A, for more than 2,000 h using four 25–32 m class radio telescopes. We detected 46 high-energy bursts, many more than one would expect given previous observations of lower-energy bursts using larger radio telescopes. We find a high-energy burst distribution that resembles that of the non-repeating FRB population, suggesting that apparently non-repeating FRB sources may simply be the rarest bursts from repeating sources. Also, we discuss how FRB 20201124A contributes strongly to the all-sky FRB rate and how similar sources would be observable even at very high redshift.

Kirsten, Ould-Boukattine et al. 2024, Nature Astronomy.

December 20, 2023

Constraints on the Persistent Radio Source Associated with FRB 20190520B Using the European VLBI Network

We present very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) observations of a continuum radio source potentially associated with the fast radio burst source FRB 20190520B. Using the European VLBI network, we find the source to be compact on VLBI scales with an angular size of <2.3 mas (3σ). This corresponds to a transverse physical size of <9 pc (at the z = 0.241 redshift of the host galaxy), confirming it to be as fast radio burst (FRB) persistent radio source (PRS) like that associated with the first-known repeater FRB 20121102A. The PRS has a flux density of 201 ± 34 μJy at 1.7 GHz and a spectral radio luminosity of L 1.7 GHz = (3.0 ± 0.5) × 1029 erg s-1 Hz-1 (also similar to the FRB 20121102A PRS). Compared to previous lower-resolution observations, we find that no flux is resolved out on milliarcsecond scales. We have refined the PRS position, improving its precision by an order of magnitude compared to previous results. We also report the detection of the FRB 20190520B burst at 1.4 GHz and find the burst position to be consistent with the PRS position, at ≲20 mas. This strongly supports their direct physical association and the hypothesis that a single central engine powers both the bursts and the PRS. We discuss the model of a magnetar in a wind nebula and present an allowed parameter space for its age and the radius of the putative nebula powering the observed PRS emission. Alternatively, we find that an accretion-powered hypernebula model also fits our observational constraints.

Bhandari, Marcote, et al. 2023, ApJL, 958, 2, L19.

October 19, 2023

Detection of ultra-fast radio bursts from FRB 20121102A

Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are extragalactic transient flashes of radio waves with typical durations of milliseconds. FRBs have been shown, however, to present a wide range of timescales: some show sub-microsecond sub-bursts while others last up to a few seconds. Probing FRBs on a range of timescales is crucial for understanding their emission physics, how to detect them effectively and how to maximize their utility as astrophysical probes. FRB 20121102A is the first known repeating FRB source. Here we show that FRB 20121102A produces isolated microsecond-duration bursts with durations less than one-tenth the duration of other currently known FRBs. The polarimetric properties of these microsecond-duration bursts resemble those of the longer-lasting bursts, suggesting a common emission mechanism producing FRBs with durations spanning three orders of magnitude. In detecting and characterizing these microsecond-duration bursts, we show that there exists a population of ultra-fast radio bursts that current wide-field FRB searches are missing due to insufficient time resolution. These results indicate that FRBs occur more frequently and with greater diversity than initially thought. This could also influence our understanding of energy, wait time and burst rate distributions.

Snelders et al. 2023, Nature Astronomy.

October 16, 2023

Dense Forests of Microshots in Bursts from FRB 20220912A

We report on exceptionally bright bursts (>400 Jy ms) detected from the repeating fast radio burst source FRB 20220912A using the Nançay radio telescope (NRT), as part of the ECLAT (Extragalactic Coherent Light from Astrophysical Transients) monitoring campaign. These bursts exhibit extremely luminous, broad-band, short-duration structures (~16 μs), which we term 'microshots' and which can be especially well studied in the NRT data given the excellent signal-to-noise and dynamic range (32-bit samples). The estimated peak flux density of the brightest microshot is 450 Jy. We show that the microshots are clustered into dense 'forests' by modelling them as Weibull distributions and obtaining Weibull shape parameters of approximately 0.5. Our polarimetric analysis reveals that the bursts are nearly 100 per cent linearly polarized; have ≲10 per cent circular polarization fractions; a near-zero average rotation measure of 0.10(6) rad m-2; and varying polarization position angles over the burst duration. For one of the bursts, we analyse raw voltage data from simultaneous observations with the Westerbork RT-1 single 25-m dish. These data allow us to measure the scintillation bandwidth, 0.30(3) MHz, and to probe the bursts on (sub-)microsecond time-scales. Some important nuances related to dedispersion are also discussed. We propose that the emission mechanism for the broad-band microshots is potentially different from the emission mechanism of the broader burst components, which still show a residual drift of a few hundred MHz ms-1 after correcting for dispersion using the microshots. We discuss how the observed emission is phenomenologically analogous to different types of radio bursts from the Sun.

Hewitt et al. 2023, MNRAS, 526, 2039.

April 29, 2023

A burst storm from the repeating FRB 20200120E in an M81 globular cluster

The repeating fast radio burst (FRB) source FRB 20200120E is exceptional because of its proximity and association with a globular cluster. Here we report 60 bursts detected with the Effelsberg telescope at 1.4 GHz. We observe large variations in the burst rate, and report the first FRB 20200120E 'burst storm', where the source suddenly became active and 53 bursts (fluence ≥0.04 Jy ms) occurred within only 40 min. We find no strict periodicity in the burst arrival times, nor any evidence for periodicity in the source's activity between observations. The burst storm shows a steep energy distribution (power-law index α = 2.39 ± 0.12) and a bimodal wait-time distribution, with log-normal means of ~0.94 s and 23.61 s. We attribute these wait-time distribution peaks to a characteristic event time-scale and pseudo-Poisson burst rate, respectively. The secondary wait-time peak at ~1 s is ~50 × longer than the ~24 ms time-scale seen for both FRB 20121102A and FRB 20201124A - potentially indicating a larger emission region, or slower burst propagation. FRB 20200120E shows order-of-magnitude lower burst durations and luminosities compared with FRB 20121102A and FRB 20201124A. Lastly, in contrast to FRB 20121102A, which has observed dispersion measure (DM) variations of ΔDM > 1 pc cm-3 on month-to-year time-scales, we determine that FRB 20200120E's DM has remained stable (ΔDM < 0.15 pc cm-3) over >10 months. Overall, the observational characteristics of FRB 20200120E deviate quantitatively from other active repeaters, but it is unclear whether it is qualitatively a different type of source.

Nimmo, K., Hessels, J. W. T., Snelders, M. P., et al. 2023, MNRAS Volume 520, Issue 2, pp.2281-2305.

March 30, 2023

ERC Advanced Grant for Jason Hessels - EuroFlash: exploring the origins of fast radio bursts using a network of European radio telescopes

Fast radio bursts (FRBs) present astronomers with a compelling mystery: what is creating these brilliant but ephemeral flashes that travel billions of lightyears before reaching Earth? Whatever is producing the FRBs, it requires an extreme energy density and the conditions for `laser-like’ coherent radio emission to be generated. While recent discoveries show that magnetars are a leading contender, the heterogeneous properties of the known FRB sample strongly suggest that there are multiple FRB source types. If so, then we have multiple mysterious FRB origins to uncover. Due to the great interest in solving this puzzle, enormous progress has been made in recent years. There are now hundreds of known FRB sources, dozens of which repeat, and some of which have been localised to their exact galactic neighbourhoods. The FRB sample continues to grow at a rapid pace of several new sources per day, thanks to new wide-field radio telescopes. Studying these sources with dedicated follow-up is challenging because they emit sporadically and are only visible for milliseconds or less. At the same time, by casting an even wider net we are likely to discover new types of FRB-like signals. With EuroFlash, a recently awarded ERC Advanced grant, I will create a coordinated network of European radio telescopes operating over a broad range of radio frequencies, providing high sensitivity and observing cadence, and achieving the best-possible localisations. I will use this network to perform a world-leading, systematic study of repeating FRBs, to understand their progenitor(s) and their relation to the apparently one-off FRB sources. I will also make a novel exploration of the parameter space of short-duration radio transients by exploiting the large field-of-view of LOFAR2.0 and commensal observations to find new sources. In doing so, I aim to discover new types of astrophysical phenomena that probe the extremes of the Universe.

Credit: Futselaar/Hessels/ASTRON.

October 28, 2022

PRECISE detects high activity from FRB 20220912A at 1.4 GHz but no bursts at 5 GHz using the Effelsberg telescope

We observed the recently discovered FRB 20220912A (ATel #15679) with an ad-hoc VLBI network as part of the PRECISE project. We targeted the source on three occasions: 22 Oct UT 00:00-04:30, 24-25 Oct UT 21:00-02:00, and 26-27 Oct UT 23:00-04:30. The first two observations were carried out at L-band (1254-1510 MHz) while the latest one was performed at C-band (4798-5054 MHz). During the two L-band sessions we were pointing at the coordinates found by DSA-110 (23h09h05.49s +48d42m25.6s, J2000, ATel #15693) and refined this to the updated DSA-110 localisation from ATel #15716 (23h09h04.9s +48d42m25.4s, J2000) for the C-band session. Since these are VLBI observations, the target scans were interrupted by calibrator scans, reducing the total time on source to 160 minutes during the L-band runs and 197 minutes during the C-band run.

We recorded the raw voltages (aka baseband data) as 2-bit samples, storing both left and right circular polarisations at all participating stations. Being the most sensitive dish in the array, the baseband data from the Effelsberg telescope were transferred to a processing node at Onsala Space Observatory where they were processed to generate total intensity (Stokes I) filterbanks at time and frequency resolution of 64 microseconds and 62.5 kHz at L-band, and 16 microseconds and 1 MHz at C-band. The data were then searched using the Heimdall software package (limiting the DM search range to 170-270 pc/cm^3) and candidates were selected as real using the ML-classifier FETCH (Agarwal et al. 2020).

In total we detected 49 bursts in the Effelsberg data during the L-band run on 22 Oct and another 113 bursts during the L-band run on 24-25 Oct. This corresponds to rates of 18 and 42 bursts/hour, respectively, which is lower than the rate found in ATel #15723 (assuming similar sensitivity thresholds). We note though that during our observations the number of bursts per scan changed significantly between scans, ranging from 1 to 10 bursts per 5-minute scan on source (12-120 bursts/hour).

On the contrary, we detected no bursts at C-band on 26-27 Oct above a 7-sigma detection limit of 0.22 Jy ms. Since it is unlikely that the source became inactive within about 45 hours, we conclude that the source is either a) inactive at C-band or burst rates are significantly lower than at L-band, b) C-band emission misses Earth because of (potentially relativistic) beaming leading to a smaller emission cone, or c) the source does emit at C-band but outside the frequency range probed by our observations.

Simultaneously with our L-band observations on 22 Oct, the Stockert telescope was also observing FRB 20220912A. They detected a burst from the source at UT 02:14:50.491 (topocentric, DM=219.46, reference frequency 1430 MHz) which falls within a time when Effelsberg was still slewing. Manual inspection of data from some of the smaller stations in our array (Medicina, Noto, Torun) showed that they were already on source and detected the burst as well. The particular burst in question can be found here.

Kirsten et al., 2022, The Astronomer's Telegram, No. 15727.

March 29, 2022

Fast radio bursts at the dawn of the 2020s

Since the discovery of the first fast radio burst (FRB) in 2007, and their confirmation as an abundant extragalactic population in 2013, the study of these sources has expanded at an incredible rate. In our 2019 review on the subject, we presented a growing, but still mysterious, population of FRBs—60 unique sources, 2 repeating FRBs, and only 1 identified host galaxy. However, in only a few short years, new observations and discoveries have given us a wealth of information about these sources. The total FRB population now stands at over 600 published sources, 24 repeaters, and 19 host galaxies. Higher time resolution data, sustained monitoring, and precision localisations have given us insight into repeaters, host galaxies, burst morphology, source activity, progenitor models, and the use of FRBs as cosmological probes. The recent detection of a bright FRB-like burst from the Galactic magnetar SGR 1935 + 2154 provides an important link between FRBs and magnetars. There also continue to be surprising discoveries, like periodic modulation of activity from repeaters and the localisation of one FRB source to a relatively nearby globular cluster associated with the M81 galaxy. In this review, we summarise the exciting observational results from the past few years. We also highlight their impact on our understanding of the FRB population and proposed progenitor models. We build on the introduction to FRBs in our earlier review, update our readers on recent results, and discuss interesting avenues for exploration as the field enters a new regime where hundreds to thousands of new FRBs will be discovered and reported each year.

Petroff, E., Hessels, J. W. T., Lorimer, D. R., A&ARv, Volume 30, Issue 1, article id.2.

March 28, 2022

Milliarcsecond Localization of the Repeating FRB 20201124A

Very long baseline interferometric (VLBI) localizations of repeating fast radio bursts (FRBs) have demonstrated a diversity of local environments: from nearby star-forming regions to globular clusters. Here we report the VLBI localization of FRB 20201124A using an ad hoc array of dishes that also participate in the European VLBI Network (EVN). In our campaign, we detected 18 bursts from FRB 20201124A at two separate epochs. By combining the visibilities from both epochs, we were able to localize FRB 20201124A with a 1σ uncertainty of 2.7 mas. We use the relatively large burst sample to investigate astrometric accuracy and find that for ≳20 baselines (≳7 dishes) we can robustly reach milliarcsecond precision even using single-burst data sets. Subarcsecond precision is still possible for single bursts, even when only ~6 baselines (four dishes) are available. In such cases, the limited uv coverage for individual bursts results in very high side-lobe levels. Thus, in addition to the peak position from the dirty map, we also explore smoothing the structure in the dirty map by fitting Gaussian functions to the fringe pattern in order to constrain individual burst positions, which we find to be more reliable. Our VLBI work places FRB 20201124A 710 ± 30 mas (1σ uncertainty) from the optical center of the host galaxy, consistent with originating from within the recently discovered extended radio structure associated with star formation in the host galaxy. Future high-resolution optical observations, e.g., with Hubble Space Telescope, can determine the proximity of FRB 20201124A's position to nearby knots of star formation.

Nimmo, K., Hewitt, D. M., Hessels, J. W. T., et al. 2022, ApJL, Volume 927, Issue 1, id.L3, 12 pp.

February 23, 2022

A repeating fast radio burst source in a globular cluster

Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are flashes of unknown physical origin1. The majority of FRBs have been seen only once, although some are known to generate multiple flashes. Many models invoke magnetically powered neutron stars (magnetars) as the source of the emission. Recently, the discovery6 of another repeater (FRB 20200120E) was announced, in the direction of the nearby galaxy M81, with four potential counterparts at other wavelengths6. Here we report observations that localized the FRB to a globular cluster associated with M81, where it is 2 parsecs away from the optical centre of the cluster. Globular clusters host old stellar populations, challenging FRB models that invoke young magnetars formed in a core-collapse supernova. We propose instead that FRB 20200120E originates from a highly magnetized neutron star formed either through the accretion-induced collapse of a white dwarf, or the merger of compact stars in a binary system. Compact binaries are efficiently formed inside globular clusters, so a model invoking them could also be responsible for the observed bursts.

Kirsten, F., Marcote, B., Nimmo, K., et al., 2022, Nature, Volume 602, Issue 7898, p.585-589.

February 23, 2022

Burst timescales and luminosities as links between young pulsars and fast radio bursts

Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are extragalactic radio flashes of unknown physical origin. Their high luminosities and short durations require extreme energy densities, such as those found in the vicinity of neutron stars and black holes. Studying the burst intensities and polarimetric properties on a wide range of timescales, from milliseconds down to nanoseconds, is key to understanding the emission mechanism. However, high-time-resolution studies of FRBs are limited by their unpredictable activity levels, available instrumentation and temporal broadening in the intervening ionized medium. Here we show that the repeating FRB 20200120E can produce isolated shots of emission as short as about 60 nanoseconds in duration, with brightness temperatures as high as 3 × 10^41 K (excluding relativistic effects), comparable with `nano-shots' from the Crab pulsar. Comparing both the range of timescales and luminosities, we find that FRB 20200120E observationally bridges the gap between known Galactic young pulsars and magnetars and the much more distant extragalactic FRBs. This suggests a common magnetically powered emission mechanism spanning many orders of magnitude in timescale and luminosity. In this Article, we probe a relatively unexplored region of the short-duration transient phase space; we highlight that there probably exists a population of ultrafast radio transients at nanosecond to microsecond timescales, which current FRB searches are insensitive to.

Nimmo, K., Hessels, J. W. T., Kirsten, F., et al. 2022, Nature Astronomy, Volume 6, p. 393-401.

January 29, 2022

Subsequent detection of three more bursts from FRB 20201124A using the Westerbork-RT1 25-m telescope

Following ATel \#15190, we report the subsequent detection of three additional bursts from FRB 20201124A using the Westerbork-RT1 25-m telescope. Observations were done at a central frequency of 1323.49 MHz using a bandwidth of 128 MHz. We use a DM of 410.775 pc cm^-3, as determined in our analysis of bursts discovered using the Onsala telescope.

Ould-Boukattine, O. S., Kirsten, F., Nimmo, K., et al., 2022, The Astronomer's Telegram, No. 15192.

January 28, 2022

Burst detection from FRB 20201124A using the Westerbork-RT1 25-m telescope

We report the detection of a fast radio burst from FRB 20201124A using the Westerbork-RT1 25-m telescope. Observations were done at a central frequency of 1323.49 MHz using a bandwidth of 128 MHz. We use a DM of 410.775 pc cm^-3, as determined in our analysis of bursts discovered using the Onsala telescope.

Ould-Boukattine, O. S., Kirsten, F., Nimmo, K., et al., 2022, The Astronomer's Telegram, No. 15190.

May 06, 2021

Two bright bursts from FRB 20201124A with the Onsala 25-m telescope at 1.4 GHz, with no simultaneous emission detected at 330 MHz with Westerbork 25-m

We are running a multi-telescope, multi-band observing campaign on the recently announced fast radio burst source FRB 20201124A (ATel \#14497). The participating stations are the 25-m telescope at Onsala Space Observatory (OSO, observing between 1360-1488 MHz), the 25-m dish at Westerbork RT1 (300-364 MHz) and the 32-m telescope in Torun (4550-4806 MHz).

Kirsten, F., Ould-Boukattine, O. S., Nimmo, K., et al., 2021, The Astronomer's Telegram, No. 14605.

May 05, 2021

VLBI localization of FRB 20201124A and absence of persistent emission on milliarcsecond scales

We observed the field of FRB 20201124A (ATel \#14497) as part of the PRECISE project with an ad-hoc interferometric array composed of dishes that are part of the European VLBI Network (EVN).

Marcote, B., Kirsten, F., Hessels, J. W. T., et al., 2021, The Astronomer's Telegram, No. 14603.

April 29, 2021

Detection of two bright radio bursts from magnetar SGR 1935+2154

Fast radio bursts are millisecond-duration, bright radio signals (fluence 0.1-100 Jy ms) emitted from extragalactic sources of unknown physical origin. The recent CHIME/FRB and STARE2 detection of an extremely bright (fluence ~MJy ms) radio burst from the Galactic magnetar SGR 1935+2154 supports the hypothesis that (at least some) fast radio bursts are emitted by magnetars at cosmological distances. In follow-up observations totalling 522.7 h on source, we detect two bright radio bursts with fluences of 112 ± 22 Jy ms and 24 ± 5 Jy ms, respectively. Both bursts appear to be affected by interstellar scattering and we measure significant linear and circular polarization for the fainter burst. The bursts are separated in time by ~1.4 s, suggesting a non-Poissonian, clustered emission process—similar to those seen in some repeating fast radio bursts. Together with the burst reported by CHIME/FRB and STARE2, as well as a much fainter burst seen by FAST (fluence 60 mJy ms), our observations demonstrate that SGR 1935+2154 can produce bursts with apparent energies spanning roughly seven orders of magnitude, and that the burst rate is comparable across this range. This raises the question of whether these four bursts arise from similar physical processes, and whether the fast radio burst population distribution extends to very low energies (~1030 erg, isotropic equivalent).

Kirsten, F., Snelders, M. P., Jenkins, M., et al. 2021, Nature Astronomy, Volume 5, p. 414-422.

April 09, 2021

LOFAR Detection of 110-188 MHz Emission and Frequency-dependent Activity from FRB 20180916B

The object FRB 20180916B is a well-studied repeating fast radio burst source. Its proximity (∼150 Mpc), along with detailed studies of the bursts, has revealed many clues about its nature, including a 16.3 day periodicity in its activity. Here we report on the detection of 18 bursts using LOFAR at 110-188 MHz, by far the lowest-frequency detections of any FRB to date. Some bursts are seen down to the lowest observed frequency of 110 MHz, suggesting that their spectra extend even lower. These observations provide an order-of-magnitude stronger constraint on the optical depth due to free-free absorption in the source's local environment. The absence of circular polarization and nearly flat polarization angle curves are consistent with burst properties seen at 300-1700 MHz. Compared with higher frequencies, the larger burst widths (∼40-160 ms at 150 MHz) and lower linear polarization fractions are likely due to scattering. We find ∼2-3 rad m-2 variations in the Faraday rotation measure that may be correlated with the activity cycle of the source. We compare the LOFAR burst arrival times to those of 38 previously published and 22 newly detected bursts from the uGMRT (200-450 MHz) and CHIME/FRB (400-800 MHz). Simultaneous observations show five CHIME/FRB bursts when no emission is detected by LOFAR. We find that the burst activity is systematically delayed toward lower frequencies by about 3 days from 600 to 150 MHz. We discuss these results in the context of a model in which FRB 20180916B is an interacting binary system featuring a neutron star and high-mass stellar companion.

Pleunis, Z., Michili, D., Bassa, C. G., et al., 2021, The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Volume 911, Issue 1, id.L3, 18 pp.

March 22, 2021

Highly polarized microstructure from the repeating FRB 20180916B

Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are bright, coherent, short-duration radio transients of as-yet unknown extragalactic origin. FRBs exhibit a variety of spectral, temporal and polarimetric properties that can unveil clues into their emission physics and propagation effects in the local medium. Here, we present the high-time-resolution (down to 1 μs) polarimetric properties of four 1.7 GHz bursts from the repeating FRB 20180916B, which were detected in voltage data during observations with the European Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network. We observe a range of emission timescales that spans three orders of magnitude, with the shortest component width reaching 3-4 μs (below which we are limited by scattering). We demonstrate that all four bursts are highly linearly polarized (≳80%), show no evidence of significant circular polarization (≲15%), and exhibit a constant polarization position angle (PPA) during and between bursts. On short timescales (≲100 μs), however, there appear to be subtle PPA variations (of a few degrees) across the burst profiles. These observational results are most naturally explained in an FRB model in which the emission is magnetospheric in origin, in contrast to models in which the emission originates at larger distances in a relativistic shock.

Nimmo, K., Hessels, J. W. T., Keimpema, A., et al., 2021, Nature Astronomy, Volume 5, p. 594-603.

February 11, 2021

The 60 pc Environment of FRB 20180916B

Fast radio burst FRB 20180916B in its host galaxy SDSS J015800.28+654253.0 at 149 Mpc is by far the closest-known FRB with a robust host galaxy association. The source also exhibits a 16.35 day period in its bursting. Here we present optical and infrared imaging as well as integral field spectroscopy observations of FRB 20180916B with the WFC3 camera on the Hubble Space Telescope and the MEGARA spectrograph on the 10.4 m Gran Telescopio Canarias. The 60-90 milliarcsecond (mas) resolution of the Hubble imaging, along with the previous 2.3 mas localization of FRB 20180916B, allows us to probe its environment with a 30-60 pc resolution. We constrain any point-like star formation or H II region at the location of FRB 20180916B to have an Hα luminosity LHα ≲ 1037 erg s-1, and we correspondingly constrain the local star formation rate to be ≲10-4 M⊙ yr-1. The constraint on Hα suggests that possible stellar companions to FRB 20180916B should be of a cooler, less massive spectral type than O6V. FRB 20180916B is 250 pc away (in projected distance) from the brightest pixel of the nearest young stellar clump, which is ∼380 pc in size (FWHM). With the typical projected velocities of pulsars, magnetars, or neutron stars in binaries (60-750 km s-1), FRB 20180916B would need 800 kyr to 7 Myr to traverse the observed distance from its presumed birth site. This timescale is inconsistent with the active ages of magnetars (≲10 kyr). Rather, the inferred age and observed separation are compatible with the ages of high-mass X-ray binaries and gamma-ray binaries, and their separations from the nearest OB associations.

Tendulkar, S. P., Gil de Paz, A., Kirichenko, A. Y., et al. 2021, The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Volume 908, Issue 1, id.L12, 11 pp.

February 09, 2021

Upper limits on the radio fluence of the most recent X-ray bursts from SGR1935+2154

All of Fermi GBM, Konus Wind, GECAM, and Swift-BAT reported several bright bursts during the recent X-ray activity of SGR1935+2154 (GCN circulars GCN

Kirsten, F., Eijnden, J. van den, Snelders, M., et al., 2021, The Astronomer's Telegram, No. 14382.

September 06, 2020

Simultaneous X-Ray and Radio Observations of the Repeating Fast Radio Burst FRB ∼ 180916.J0158+65

We report on simultaneous radio and X-ray observations of the repeating fast radio burst source FRB 180916.J0158+65 using the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), Effelsberg, and Deep Space Network (DSS-14 and DSS-63) radio telescopes and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. During 33 ks of Chandra observations, we detect no radio bursts in overlapping Effelsberg or Deep Space Network observations and a single burst during CHIME/FRB source transits. We detect no X-ray events in excess of the background during the Chandra observations. These non-detections imply a 5σ limit of <5 × 10-10 erg cm-2 for the 0.5-10 keV fluence of prompt emission at the time of the radio burst and 1.3 × 10-9 erg cm-2 at any time during the Chandra observations. Given the host-galaxy redshift of FRB 180916.J0158+65 (z ∼ 0.034), these correspond to energy limits of <1.6 × 1045 erg and <4 × 1045 erg, respectively. We also place a 5σ limit of <8 × 10-15 erg s-1 cm-2 on the 0.5-10 keV absorbed flux of a persistent source at the location of FRB 180916.J0158+65. This corresponds to a luminosity limit of <2 × 1040 erg s-1. Using an archival set of radio bursts from FRB 180916.J0158+65, we search for prompt gamma-ray emission in Fermi/GBM data but find no significant gamma-ray bursts, thereby placing a limit of 9 × 10-9 erg cm-2 on the 10-100 keV fluence. We also search Fermi/LAT data for periodic modulation of the gamma-ray brightness at the 16.35 days period of radio burst activity and detect no significant modulation. We compare these deep limits to the predictions of various fast radio burst models, but conclude that similar X-ray constraints on a closer fast radio burst source would be needed to strongly constrain theory.

Scholz, P., Cook, A., Cruces, M., et al. The Astrophysical Journal, Volume 901, Issue 2, id.165, 9 pp.

June 17, 2020

Periodic activity from a fast radio burst source

Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are bright, millisecond-duration radio transients originating from sources at extragalactic distances1, the origin of which is unknown. Some FRB sources emit repeat bursts, ruling out cataclysmic origins for those events2-4. Despite searches for periodicity in repeat burst arrival times on timescales from milliseconds to many days2,5-7, these bursts have hitherto been observed to appear sporadically and—although clustered8—without a regular pattern. Here we report observations of a 16.35 ± 0.15 day periodicity (or possibly a higher-frequency alias of that periodicity) from the repeating FRB 180916.J0158+65 detected by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment Fast Radio Burst Project4,9. In 38 bursts recorded from 16 September 2018 to 4 February 2020 UTC, we find that all bursts arrive in a five-day phase window, and 50 per cent of the bursts arrive in a 0.6-day phase window. Our results suggest a mechanism for periodic modulation either of the burst emission itself or through external amplification or absorption, and disfavour models invoking purely sporadic processes.

CHIME/FRB Collaboration et al., 2020, Nature, Volume 582, Issue 7812, p.351-355.

June 06, 2020

A search for persistent radio emission and millisecond-duration radio bursts from SGR 1935+2154 using the European VLBI Network

We report on real-time European VLBI Network observations (e-EVN) of SGR 1935+2154 on 13 May 2020, following the recent bright radio burst detection (ATel #13681, ATel #13684).

Nimmo, K., Marcote, B., Hessels, J. W. T., et al. 2020, The Astronomer's Telegram, No. 13786.

May 14, 2020

Simultaneous multi-frequency limits on radio emission at the time of a bright X-ray burst from SGR 1935+2154

GCN circulars GCN #27714 and #27715 reported two bright X-ray bursts from the currently active magnetar SGR 1935+2154 (ATel #13681, #13684, #13685) detected on May 10 at UT 06:12:02.624 and UT 21:51:17.280.

Kirsten, F., Jenkins, M., Snelders, M., et al. 2020, The Astronomer's Telegram, No. 13735.

May 03, 2020

A LOFAR high time resolution search for radio bursts from SGR 1935+2154

We report on a non-detection of radio bursts from the soft gamma-ray repeater SGR 1935+2154 with LOFAR. These LOFAR observations had the goals of i. studying the detailed morphology of the radio bursts in order to potentially compare with the characteristic time-frequency structure seen in repeating FRBs (Hessels et al. 2019) and ii. studying interstellar scattering along this line of sight.

Bassa, C., Hessels, J. W. T., Kondratiev, V., et al. 2020, The Astronomer's Telegram, No. 13707.

April 30, 2020

No Radio Bursts Detected from FIRST J141918.9+394036 in Green Bank Telescope Observations

FRB 121102, the first-known repeating fast radio burst (FRB) source, is associated with a dwarf host galaxy and compact, persistent radio source. In an effort to find other repeating FRBs, FIRST J141918.9+394036 (hereafter FIRST J1419+3940) was identified in a search for similar persistent radio sources in dwarf host galaxies. FIRST J1419+3940 was subsequently identified as a radio transient decaying on timescales of decades, and it has been argued that it is the orphan afterglow of a long gamma-ray burst. FIRST J1419+3940 and FRB 121102's persistent radio source show observational similarities, though the latter appears to be stable in brightness. Nonetheless, if they have similar physical origins, then FIRST J1419+3940 may also contain a source capable of producing fast radio bursts. We report the non-detection of short-duration radio bursts from FIRST J1419+3940 during 3.1 h of observations with the 110-m Green Bank Telescope at both 2 and 6 GHz. FIRST J1419+3940 is 11 times closer compared with FRB 121102, and exhibits an optically-thin synchrotron spectrum above 1.4GHz; our search was thus sensitive to bursts more than 100 times weaker than those seen from FRB 121102. We encourage future burst searches to constrain the possible presence of an FRB-emitting source. Although such searches are high-risk, any such detection could greatly elucidate the origins of the FRB phenomenon.

Nimmo, K., Gajjar, V., Hessels, J. W. T., et al. 2020, Research Notes of the AAS, Volume 4, Issue 4, id.50.

January 06, 2020

A repeating fast radio burst source localized to a nearby spiral galaxy

Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are brief, bright, extragalactic radio flashes. Their physical origin remains unknown, but dozens of possible models have been postulated. Some FRB sources exhibit repeat bursts. Although over a hundred FRB sources have been discovered, only four have been localized and associated with a host galaxy, and just one of these four is known to emit repeating FRBs. The properties of the host galaxies, and the local environments of FRBs, could provide important clues about their physical origins. The first known repeating FRB, however, was localized to a low-metallicity, irregular dwarf galaxy, and the apparently non-repeating sources were localized to higher-metallicity, massive elliptical or star-forming galaxies, suggesting that perhaps the repeating and apparently non-repeating sources could have distinct physical origins. Here we report the precise localization of a second repeating FRB source, FRB 180916.J0158+65, to a star-forming region in a nearby (redshift 0.0337 ± 0.0002) massive spiral galaxy, whose properties and proximity distinguish it from all known hosts. The lack of both a comparably luminous persistent radio counterpart and a high Faraday rotation measure6 further distinguish the local environment of FRB 180916.J0158+65 from that of the single previously localized repeating FRB source, FRB 121102. This suggests that repeating FRBs may have a wide range of luminosities, and originate from diverse host galaxies and local environments.

Marcote, B., Nimmo, K., Hessels, J. W. T., et al. 2020, Nature, Volume 577, Issue 7789, p.190-194.