Filamentation of fast radio bursts in magnetar winds

Emanuele Sobacchi, Yuri Lyubarsky, Andrei M. Beloborodov, Lorenzo Sironi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Magnetars are the most promising progenitors of fast radio bursts (FRBs). Strong radio waves propagating through the magnetar wind are subject to non-linear effects, including modulation/filamentation instabilities. We derive the dispersion relation for modulations of strong waves propagating in magnetically dominated pair plasmas focusing on dimensionless strength parameters a0 1, and discuss implications for FRBs. As an effect of the instability, the FRB-radiation intensity develops sheets perpendicular to the direction of the wind magnetic field. When the FRB front expands outside the radius where the instability ends, the radiation sheets are scattered due to diffraction. The FRB-scattering time-scale depends on the properties of the magnetar wind. In a cold wind, the typical scattering time-scale is τsc ∼ μs-ms at the frequency ν ∼ 1, GHz. The scattering time-scale increases at low frequencies, with the scaling τsc ν-2. The frequency-dependent broadening of the brightest pulse of FRB 181112 is consistent with this scaling. From the scattering time-scale of the pulse, one can estimate that the wind Lorentz factor is larger than a few tens. In a warm wind, the scattering time-scale can approach τ sc∼, ns. Then scattering produces a frequency modulation of the observed intensity with a large bandwidth, Δ ν ∼ 1/τ sc ≳ 100, MHz. Broad-band frequency modulations observed in FRBs could be due to scattering in a warm magnetar wind.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4766-4773
Number of pages8
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2022


  • Fast radio bursts
  • Instabilities
  • Plasmas
  • Radio continuum: transients
  • Relativistic processes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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