Soft Gamma Repeaters and Short Gamma Ray Bursts: Making Magnetars from WD WD Mergers
Recent progress on the nature of short duration Gamma Ray Bursts (GRBs) has shown that a fraction of them originate in the local universe. These systems may well be the result of giant flares from Soft Gamma Repeaters (SGRs) believed to be magnetars (neutron stars with extremely large magnetic fields ≥ 1014G). If these magnetars are formed via the core collapse of massive stars, then it would be expected that the bursts should originate from predomi- nantly young stellar populations. However, correlating the positions of BATSE short bursts with structure in the local universe reveals a correlation with all galaxy types, including those with little or no ongoing star formation. This is a natural outcome if, in addition to magnetars forming via the core collapse of massive stars, they also form via accretion induced collapse following the merger of two white dwarfs (WDs), one of which is magnetic. We investigate this possi- bility and find that the rate of magnetar production via WD–WD mergers in the Milky Way is comparable to the rate of production via core collapse. However, while the rate of magnetar production by core collapse is proportional to the star formation rate, the rate of production via WD–WD mergers (which have long lifetimes) is proportional to the stellar mass density, which is concentrated in early-type systems. Therefore magnetars produced via WD–WD mergers may produce SGR giant flares which can be identified with early-type galaxies. We also comment on the possibility that this mechanism could produce a fraction of the observed short duration GRB population at low redshift.