On the Origin of the Scatter Broadening of Fast Radio Burst Pulses and Astrophysical Implications

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Fast radio bursts (FRBs) have been identified as extragalactic sources that can probe turbulence in the intergalactic medium (IGM) and their host galaxies. To account for the observed millisecond pulses caused by scatter broadening, we examine a variety of possible electron density fluctuation models in both the IGM and the host galaxy medium. We find that a short-wave-dominated power-law spectrum of density, which may arise in highly supersonic turbulence with pronounced local dense structures of shock-compressed gas in the host interstellar medium (ISM), can produce the required density enhancements at sufficiently small scales to interpret the scattering timescale of FRBs. This implies that an FRB residing in a galaxy with efficient star formation in action tends to have a broadened pulse. The scaling of the scattering time with the dispersion measure (DM) in the host galaxy varies in different turbulence and scattering regimes. The host galaxy can be the major origin of scatter broadening, but contributes to a small fraction of the total DM. We also find that the sheet-like structure of the density in the host ISM associated with folded magnetic fields in a viscosity-dominated regime of magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) turbulence cannot give rise to strong scattering. Furthermore, valuable insights into the IGM turbulence concerning the detailed spatial structure of density and magnetic field can be gained from the observed scattering timescale of FRBs. Our results favor the suppression of micro-plasma instabilities and the validity of the collisional-MHD description of turbulence properties in the collisionless IGM. © 2016. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved..