Dispersion Measure Variation of Repeating Fast Radio Burst Sources

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Astrophysical Journal






The repeating fast radio burst (FRB) 121102 was recently localized in a dwarf galaxy at a cosmological distance. The dispersion measure (DM) derived for each burst from FRB 121102 so far has not shown significant evolution, even though an apparent increase was recently seen with newly detected VLA bursts. It is expected that more repeating FRB sources may be detected in the future. In this work, we investigate a list of possible astrophysical processes that might cause DM variation of a particular FRB source. The processes include (1) cosmological scale effects such as Hubble expansion and large-scale structure fluctuations; (2) FRB local effects such as gas density fluctuation, expansion of a supernova remnant (SNR), a pulsar wind nebula, and an H ii region; and (3) the propagation effect due to plasma lensing. We find that the DM variations contributed by the large-scale structure are extremely small, and any observable DM variation is likely caused by the plasma local to the FRB source. In addition to mechanisms that decrease DM over time, we suggest that an FRB source in an expanding SNR around a nearly neutral ambient medium during the deceleration (Sedov-Taylor and snowplow) phases or in a growing H ii region can increase DM. Some effects (e.g., an FRB source moving in an H ii region or plasma lensing) can produce either positive or negative DM variations. Future observations of DM variations of FRB 121102 and other repeating FRB sources can provide important clues regarding the physical origin of these sources. © 2017. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.



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