A bright millisecond-duration radio burst from a Galactic magnetar

Abstract

Magnetars are highly magnetized young neutron stars that occasionally produce enormous bursts and flares of X-rays and γ-rays1. Of the approximately thirty magnetars currently known in our Galaxy and the Magellanic Clouds, five have exhibited transient radio pulsations2,3. Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are millisecond-duration bursts of radio waves arriving from cosmological distances4, some of which have been seen to repeat5,6,7,8. A leading model for repeating FRBs is that they are extragalactic magnetars, powered by their intense magnetic fields9,10,11. However, a challenge to this model is that FRBs must have radio luminosities many orders of magnitude larger than those seen from known Galactic magnetars. Here we report the detection of an extremely intense radio burst from the Galactic magnetar SGR 1935+2154 using the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) FRB project. The fluence of this two-component bright radio burst and the estimated distance to SGR 1935+2154 together imply a burst energy at 400 to 800 megahertz of approximately 3 × 1034 erg, which is three orders of magnitude higher than the burst energy of any radio-emitting magnetar detected thus far. Such a burst coming from a nearby galaxy (at a distance of less than approximately 12 megaparsecs) would be indistinguishable from a typical FRB. However, given the large gaps in observed energies and activity between the brightest and most active FRB sources and what is observed for SGR 1935+2154-like magnetars, more energetic and active sources—perhaps younger magnetars—are needed to explain all observations.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Burst waterfalls.
Fig. 2: Comparison of short radio burst energetics.

Data availability

The data used in this publication are available at https://chime-frb-open-data.github.io and in the repository at https://doi.org/10.11570/20.0006.

Code availability

The code used in this publication is available at https://chime-frb-open-data.github.io.

References

  1. 1.

    Kaspi, V. M. & Beloborodov, A. M. Magnetars. Annu. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 55, 261–301 (2017).

    ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Olausen, S. A. & Kaspi, V. M. The McGill Magnetar Catalog. Astrophys. J. Suppl. Ser. 212, 6 (2014).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Esposito, P. et al. A very young radio-loud magnetar. Astrophys. J. Lett. 896, 30 (2020).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Petroff, E., Hessels, J. W. T. & Lorimer, D. R. Fast radio bursts. Astron. Astrophys. Rev. 27, 4 (2019).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Spitler, L. G. et al. A repeating fast radio burst. Nature 531, 202–205 (2016).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    The CHIME/FRB Collaboration. CHIME/FRB detection of eight new repeating fast radio burst sources. Astrophys. J. Lett. 885, 24 (2019).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Kumar, P. et al. Faint repetitions from a bright fast radio burst source. Astrophys. J. Lett. 887, 30 (2019).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Fonseca, E. et al. Nine new repeating fast radio burst sources from CHIME/FRB. Astrophys. J. Lett. 891, 6 (2020).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Lyubarsky, Y. A model for fast extragalactic radio bursts. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 442, L9–L13 (2014).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Beloborodov, A. M. A flaring magnetar in FRB 121102? Astrophys. J. Lett. 843, 26 (2017).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Metzger, B. D., Margalit, B. & Sironi, L. Fast radio bursts as synchrotron maser emission from decelerating relativistic blast waves. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 485, 4091–4106 (2019).

    ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    CHIME/FRB Collaboration et al. The CHIME Fast Radio Burst Project: system overview. Astrophys. J. 863, 48 (2018).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Palmer, D. M. A forest of bursts from SGR 1935+2154. Astron. Telegr. 13675 (2020).

  14. 14.

    Israel, G. L. et al. The discovery, monitoring and environment of SGR J1935+2154. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 457, 3448–3456 (2016).

    ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Cordes, J. M. & Lazio, T. J. W. NE2001. I. A new model for the galactic distribution of free electrons and its fluctuations. Preprint at https://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0207156 (2002).

  16. 16.

    Yao, J. M., Manchester, R. N. & Wang, N. A new electron-density model for estimation of pulsar and FRB distances. Astrophys. J. 835, 29 (2017).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    He, C., Ng, C.-Y. & Kaspi, V. The correlation between dispersion measure and X-ray column density from radio pulsars. Astrophys. J. 768, 64 (2013).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Kothes, R., Sun, X., Gaensler, B. & Reich, W. A radio continuum and polarization study of SNR G57.2+0.8 associated with magnetar SGR 1935+2154. Astrophys. J. 852, 54 (2018).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Zhang, C. F. et al. A highly polarised radio burst detected from SGR 1935+2154 by FAST. Astron. Telegr. 13699 (2020).

  20. 20.

    CHIME/FRB. A fast radio burst associated with a Galactic magnetar. Nature https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2872-x (2020).

  21. 21.

    Zhou, P. et al. Revisiting the distance, environment and supernova properties of SNR G57.2+0.8 that hosts SGR 1935+2154. Preprint at https://arxiv.org/abs/2005.03517 (2020).

  22. 22.

    Mereghetti, S. et al. INTEGRAL IBIS and SPI-ACS detection of a hard X-ray counterpart of the radio burst from SGR 1935+2154. Astron. Telegr. 13685 (2020).

  23. 23.

    Ridnaia, A. et al. Konus-Wind observation of hard X-ray counterpart of the radio burst from SGR 1935+2154. Astron. Telegr. 13688 (2020).

  24. 24.

    Zhang, S. N. et al. Insight-HXMT X-ray and hard X-ray detection of the double peaks of the fast radio burst from SGR 1935+2154. Astron. Telegr. 13696 (2020).

  25. 25.

    Zhang, S. N. et al. Geocentric time correction for Insight-HXMT detection of the X-ray counterpart of the FRB by CHIME and STARE2 from SGR 1935+2154. Astron. Telegr. 13704 (2020).

  26. 26.

    Tendulkar, S. P., Kaspi, V. M. & Patel, C. Radio nondetection of the SGR 1806–20 giant flare and implications for fast radio bursts. Astrophys. J. 827, 59 (2016).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Scholz, P. et al. Simultaneous X-ray, gamma-ray, and radio observations of the repeating fast radio burst FRB 121102. Astrophys. J. 846, 80 (2017).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    von Kienlin, A. Fermi GBM GRBs 191104 A, B, C and triggers 594534420/191104185 and 594563923/191104527 are not GRBs. GCN Circ. 26163 (2019).

  29. 29.

    Ambrosi, E., D’Elia, V., Kennea, J. A. & Palmer, D. Trigger 933276: Swift detection of further activity from SGR 1935+2154. GCN Circ. 26169 (2019).

  30. 30.

    Palmer, D. Trigger 933285: Swift detection of the brightest burst so far from SGR 1935+2154. GCN Circ. 26171 (2019).

  31. 31.

    Pearlman, A. B., Majid, W. A., Prince, T. A., Kocz, J. & Horiuchi, S. Pulse morphology of the Galactic Center magnetar PSR J1745–2900. Astrophys. J. 866, 160 (2018).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Hessels, J. W. T. et al. FRB 121102 bursts show complex time–frequency structure. Astrophys. J. Lett. 876, 23 (2019).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Burgay, M. et al. Search for FRB and FRB-like single pulses in Parkes magnetar data. In Pulsar Astrophysics: the Next Fifty Years (eds Weltevrede, P. et al.) 319–321 (2018).

  34. 34.

    Bera, A. & Chengalur, J. N. Super-giant pulses from the Crab pulsar: energy distribution and occurrence rate. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 490, L12–L16 (2019).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Marcote, B. et al. A repeating fast radio burst source localized to a nearby spiral galaxy. Nature 577, 190–194 (2020).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    The CHIME/FRB Collaboration. Periodic activity from a fast radio burst source. Nature 582, 351–355 (2020).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Patel, C. et al. PALFA single-pulse pipeline: new pulsars, rotating radio transients, and a candidate fast radio burst. Astrophys. J. 869, 181 (2018).

    ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Pol, N., Lam, M. T., McLaughlin, M. A., Lazio, T. J. W. & Cordes, J. M. Estimates of fast radio burst dispersion measures from cosmological simulations. Astrophys. J. 886, 135 (2019).

    ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Shannon, R. M. et al. The dispersion–brightness relation for fast radio bursts from a wide-field survey. Nature 562, 386–390 (2018).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Hurley, K. et al. An exceptionally bright flare from SGR 1806–20 and the origins of short-duration γ-ray bursts. Nature 434, 1098–1103 (2005).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Lyutikov, M. Radio emission from magnetars. Astrophys. J. Lett. 580, 65–68 (2002).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Kumar, P., Lu, W. & Bhattacharya, M. Fast radio burst source properties and curvature radiation model. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 468, 2726–2739 (2017).

    ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Zhang, Y. G. et al. Fast radio burst 121102 pulse detection and periodicity: a machine learning approach. Astrophys. J. 866, 149 (2018).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  44. 44.

    Bhandari, S. et al. The Survey for Pulsars and Extragalactic Radio Bursts—II. New FRB discoveries and their follow-up. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 475, 1427–1446 (2018).

    ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  45. 45.

    Ravi, V. The prevalence of repeating fast radio bursts. Nat. Astron. 3, 928–391 (2019).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  46. 46.

    Agarwal, D. et al. A fast radio burst in the direction of the Virgo cluster. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 490, 1–8 (2019).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  47. 47.

    Taylor, M. et al. The core collapse supernova rate from the SDSS-II Supernova Survey. Astrophys. J. 792, 135 (2014).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  48. 48.

    Gourdji, K. et al. A sample of low-energy bursts from FRB 121102. Astrophys. J. Lett. 877, 19 (2019).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  49. 49.

    Gajjar, V. et al. Highest frequency detection of FRB 121102 at 4–8 GHz using the Breakthrough Listen digital backend at the Green Bank Telescope. Astrophys. J. 863, 2 (2018).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  50. 50.

    Bannister, K. W. et al. A single fast radio burst localized to a massive galaxy at cosmological distance. Science 365, 565–570 (2019).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  51. 51.

    Ng, C. et al. CHIME FRB: an application of FFT beamforming for a radio telescope. In Proc. XXXII General Assembly and Scientific Symp. Intl Union of Radio Science (URSI GASS) J33-2 (2017).

  52. 52.

    Masui, K. W. et al. Algorithms for FFT beamforming radio interferometers. Astrophys. J. 879, 16 (2019).

    ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  53. 53.

    Foreman-Mackey, D., Hogg, D. W., Lang, D. & Goodman, J. emcee: the MCMC hammer. Publ. Astron. Soc. Pacif. 125, 306 (2013).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  54. 54.

    Newburgh, L. B. et al. Calibrating CHIME: a new radio interferometer to probe dark energy. Proc. SPIE 9145, 91454V (2014).

    Google Scholar 

  55. 55.

    Berger, P. et al. Holographic beam mapping of the CHIME pathfinder array. In Ground-based and Airborne Telescopes VI (eds Hall, H. J., Gilmozzi, R. & Marshall, H. K.) 99060D (SPIE, 2016).

  56. 56.

    Bandura, K. et al. Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) pathfinder. In Ground-based and Airborne Telescopes V (eds Stepp, L. M., Gilmozzi, R. & Hall, H. J.) 914522 (SPIE, 2014).

  57. 57.

    Bandura, K. et al. ICE: a scalable, low-cost FPGA-based telescope signal processing and networking system. J. Astron. Instrum. 5, 1641005 (2016).

    Google Scholar 

  58. 58.

    Burn, B. J. On the depolarization of discrete radio sources by Faraday dispersion. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 133, 67–83 (1966).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  59. 59.

    Brentjens, M. A. & de Bruyn, A. G. Faraday rotation measure synthesis. Astron. Astrophys. 441, 1217–1228 (2005).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  60. 60.

    Sobey, C. et al. Low-frequency Faraday rotation measures towards pulsars using LOFAR: probing the 3D Galactic halo magnetic field. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 484, 3646–3664 (2019).

    ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  61. 61.

    Ester, M., Kriegel, H.-P., Sander, J. & Xu, X. A density-based algorithm for discovering clusters in large spatial databases with noise. In Proc. Second Intl Conf. Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining, KDD’96 (eds Simoudis, E., Han, J. & Fayyad, U.) 226–231 (AAAI, 1996).

  62. 62.

    Arnaud, K. A. Xspec: the first ten years. In Astronomical Data Analysis Software and Systems V (eds Jacoby, G. & Barnes, J.) 17 (ASP, 1996).

  63. 63.

    Karachentsev, I. D. & Kaisina, E. I. Star formation properties in the local volume galaxies via Hα and far-ultraviolet fluxes. Astron. J. 146, 46 (2013).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  64. 64.

    Jarrett, T. H. et al. The WISE Extended Source Catalog (WXSC). I. The 100 largest galaxies. Astrophys. J. Suppl. Ser. 245, 25 (2019).

    ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  65. 65.

    Gehrels, N. Confidence limits for small numbers of events in astrophysical data. Astrophys. J. 303, 336–346 (1986).

    ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory, operated by the National Research Council Canada, for hospitality and expertise. The CHIME/FRB Project is funded by a grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) 2015 Innovation Fund (Project 33213), as well as by the provinces of British Columbia and Quebec, and by the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. Additional support was provided by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), McGill University and the McGill Space Institute via the Trottier Family Foundation, and the University of British Columbia. CHIME is funded by a grant from the CFI Leading Edge Fund (2012) (project 31170) and by contributions from the provinces of British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario. The Dunlap Institute is funded by an endowment established by the David Dunlap family and the University of Toronto. Research at Perimeter Institute is supported by the Government of Canada through Industry Canada and by the Province of Ontario through the Ministry of Research and Innovation. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc. M.B. is supported by a Fonds de Recherche Nature et Technologie Québec (FRQNT) Doctoral Research Award. P.C. is supported by an FRQNT Doctoral Research Award. M.D. is supported by a Killam Fellowship and receives support from an NSERC Discovery Grant, CIFAR, and from the FRQNT Centre de Recherche en Astrophysique du Québec (CRAQ). B.M.G. acknowledges the support of NSERC through grant RGPIN-2015-05948, and of the Canada Research Chairs programme. J.W.K. is supported by NSF award 1458952. V.M.K. holds the Lorne Trottier Chair in Astrophysics and Cosmology, a Distinguished James McGill Professorship and receives support from an NSERC Discovery Grant (RGPIN 228738-13) and a Gerhard Herzberg Award, from an R. Howard Webster Foundation Fellowship from CIFAR, and from the FRQNT CRAQ. D.M. is a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow. S.M.R. is a CIFAR Fellow and is supported by the NSF Physics Frontiers Center, award 1430284. U.-L.P. receives support from Ontario Research Fund–Research Excellence (ORF-RE) programme, CFI, the Simons Foundation and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. U.-L.P. acknowledges support from NSERC (grant RGPIN-2019-067 and CRD 523638-201). Z.P. is supported by a Schulich Graduate Fellowship from McGill University. P.S. is a Dunlap Fellow and an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow. FRB research at UBC is supported by an NSERC Discovery Grant and by CIFAR.

Author information

Affiliations

Consortia

Contributions

All authors from the CHIME/FRB Collaboration had either leadership or significant supporting roles in one or more of: the management, development and construction of the CHIME telescope, the CHIME/FRB instrument and the CHIME/FRB software data pipeline, the commissioning and operations of the CHIME/FRB instrument, the data analysis and preparation of this manuscript. All authors from the CHIME Collaboration had either leadership or significant supporting roles in the management, development and construction of the CHIME telescope.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to P. Scholz.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Peer review information Nature thanks Evan Keane and Amanda Weltman for their contribution to the peer review of this work. Peer reviewer reports are available.

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Fig. 1 Burst fitting.

ad, Dynamic spectra and band-averaged time series (referenced to the geocentre) of fitted burst models (a), beam-attenuated burst models (b), burst data as in Fig. 1 (c) and fit residuals (d). Dynamic spectra are displayed at 0.98304-ms and 1.5625-MHz resolution, with intensity values capped at the 1st and 99th percentiles, except in d where values are capped at ±3σ around 0. The time series of bd have the same scaling. The beam attenuation of the maxima in the model dynamic spectra is about 1,700×.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Polarized intensity Faraday spectra for the two bursts.

a, The Faraday spectrum FB1 for the first sub-burst from Stokes Q and U after correcting for a leakage between Stokes U and V. b, Faraday spectrum \({F}_{{\rm{B}}2}^{\ast }\) for the second sub-burst from a single polarized flux of the ARO 10-m dish. c, The cross spectrum Fcross = \(\sqrt{{F}_{{\rm{B}}1}{F}_{{\rm{B}}2}^{\ast }}\) from the ARO 10-m dish, magnified near the peak. d, The cross spectrum from CHIME intensity data. The oscillations of the Stokes Q from Faraday rotation have leaked to the summed intensity, owing to the different response of the two linear receivers in the far sidelobe. The black lines show the amplitude of the spectra; the blue and orange lines are the real and imaginary parts of the spectra, respectively. The phase of the cross spectrum corresponds to the PA difference between the two bursts. When the real part approaches the amplitude, the two bursts have the same PA. The yellow dashed vertical line is drawn at RM = 116 rad m−2. L is the linear polarization, I is the total intensity and their indices refer to the first and second bursts.

Extended Data Fig. 3 The polarization spectra for the first observed burst from the ARO 10-m telescope.

ad, The spectrum of the first burst in the Stokes I parameter and its cubic spline-smoothed version (black line) (a), the Stokes Q parameter divided by the total linear polarization, L (b), the Stokes U parameter divided by the total linear polarization (c), and the uncalibrated polarization angle, ψ (d). The frequency channels with greater polarized intensity are indicated with darker points. The best-fit model of the Faraday rotation modulation with an RM of 116 rad m−2 is indicated by the black lines in b and c. The best-fit model of the uncalibrated polarization angle is indicated with the solid red line in d. Error bars are 1σ.

Extended Data Table 1 Nearby star-forming galaxies

Supplementary information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

The CHIME/FRB Collaboration., Andersen, B., Bandura, K. et al. A bright millisecond-duration radio burst from a Galactic magnetar. Nature 587, 54–58 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2863-y

Download citation

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing