skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: OPTICAL DISCOVERY OF PROBABLE STELLAR TIDAL DISRUPTION FLARES

Abstract

Using archival Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) multi-epoch imaging data (Stripe 82), we have searched for the tidal disruption of stars by supermassive black holes in non-active galaxies. Two candidate tidal disruption events (TDEs) are identified. The TDE flares have optical blackbody temperatures of 2 Multiplication-Sign 10{sup 4} K and observed peak luminosities of M{sub g} = -18.3 and -20.4 ({nu}L{sub {nu}} = 5 Multiplication-Sign 10{sup 42}, 4 Multiplication-Sign 10{sup 43} erg s{sup -1}, in the rest frame); their cooling rates are very low, qualitatively consistent with expectations for tidal disruption flares. The properties of the TDE candidates are examined using (1) SDSS imaging to compare them to other flares observed in the search, (2) UV emission measured by GALEX, and (3) spectra of the hosts and of one of the flares. Our pipeline excludes optically identifiable AGN hosts, and our variability monitoring over nine years provides strong evidence that these are not flares in hidden AGNs. The spectra and color evolution of the flares are unlike any SN observed to date, their strong late-time UV emission is particularly distinctive, and they are nuclear at high resolution arguing against these being first cases of a previously unobserved class of SNemore » or more extreme examples of known SN types. Taken together, the observed properties are difficult to reconcile with an SN or an AGN-flare explanation, although an entirely new process specific to the inner few hundred parsecs of non-active galaxies cannot be excluded. Based on our observed rate, we infer that hundreds or thousands of TDEs will be present in current and next-generation optical synoptic surveys. Using the approach outlined here, a TDE candidate sample with O(1) purity can be selected using geometric resolution and host and flare color alone, demonstrating that a campaign to create a large sample of TDEs, with immediate and detailed multi-wavelength follow-up, is feasible. A by-product of this work is quantification of the power spectrum of extreme flares in AGNs.« less

Authors:
;  [1];  [2];  [3];  [4];  [5];  [6];  [7]
  1. Center for Cosmology and Particle Physics, New York University, NY 10003 (United States)
  2. Department of Physics and Astronomy, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21218 (United States)
  3. Carnegie Observatories, Las Campanas Observatory, Casillas 601, La Serena (Chile)
  4. Steward Observatory, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721 (United States)
  5. Institut de Fisica d'Altes Energies, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, E-08193 Bellaterra (Barcelona) (Spain)
  6. Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, 7701 (South Africa)
  7. New York University-Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
21612711
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Journal Name:
Astrophysical Journal
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 741; Journal Issue: 2; Other Information: DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/741/2/73; Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); Journal ID: ISSN 0004-637X
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
79 ASTROPHYSICS, COSMOLOGY AND ASTRONOMY; BLACK HOLES; COLOR; GALACTIC EVOLUTION; GALAXIES; GALAXY NUCLEI; LUMINOSITY; SPECTRA; STARS; EVOLUTION; OPTICAL PROPERTIES; ORGANOLEPTIC PROPERTIES; PHYSICAL PROPERTIES

Citation Formats

Van Velzen, Sjoert, Farrar, Glennys R, Gezari, Suvi, Morrell, Nidia, Zaritsky, Dennis, Oestman, Linda, Smith, Mathew, Gelfand, Joseph, and Drake, Andrew J., E-mail: s.vanvelzen@astro.ru.nl. OPTICAL DISCOVERY OF PROBABLE STELLAR TIDAL DISRUPTION FLARES. United States: N. p., 2011. Web. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/741/2/73; COUNTRY OF INPUT: INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY (IAEA).
Van Velzen, Sjoert, Farrar, Glennys R, Gezari, Suvi, Morrell, Nidia, Zaritsky, Dennis, Oestman, Linda, Smith, Mathew, Gelfand, Joseph, & Drake, Andrew J., E-mail: s.vanvelzen@astro.ru.nl. OPTICAL DISCOVERY OF PROBABLE STELLAR TIDAL DISRUPTION FLARES. United States. https://doi.org/10.1088/0004-637X/741/2/73; COUNTRY OF INPUT: INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY (IAEA)
Van Velzen, Sjoert, Farrar, Glennys R, Gezari, Suvi, Morrell, Nidia, Zaritsky, Dennis, Oestman, Linda, Smith, Mathew, Gelfand, Joseph, and Drake, Andrew J., E-mail: s.vanvelzen@astro.ru.nl. Thu . "OPTICAL DISCOVERY OF PROBABLE STELLAR TIDAL DISRUPTION FLARES". United States. https://doi.org/10.1088/0004-637X/741/2/73; COUNTRY OF INPUT: INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY (IAEA).
@article{osti_21612711,
title = {OPTICAL DISCOVERY OF PROBABLE STELLAR TIDAL DISRUPTION FLARES},
author = {Van Velzen, Sjoert and Farrar, Glennys R and Gezari, Suvi and Morrell, Nidia and Zaritsky, Dennis and Oestman, Linda and Smith, Mathew and Gelfand, Joseph and Drake, Andrew J., E-mail: s.vanvelzen@astro.ru.nl},
abstractNote = {Using archival Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) multi-epoch imaging data (Stripe 82), we have searched for the tidal disruption of stars by supermassive black holes in non-active galaxies. Two candidate tidal disruption events (TDEs) are identified. The TDE flares have optical blackbody temperatures of 2 Multiplication-Sign 10{sup 4} K and observed peak luminosities of M{sub g} = -18.3 and -20.4 ({nu}L{sub {nu}} = 5 Multiplication-Sign 10{sup 42}, 4 Multiplication-Sign 10{sup 43} erg s{sup -1}, in the rest frame); their cooling rates are very low, qualitatively consistent with expectations for tidal disruption flares. The properties of the TDE candidates are examined using (1) SDSS imaging to compare them to other flares observed in the search, (2) UV emission measured by GALEX, and (3) spectra of the hosts and of one of the flares. Our pipeline excludes optically identifiable AGN hosts, and our variability monitoring over nine years provides strong evidence that these are not flares in hidden AGNs. The spectra and color evolution of the flares are unlike any SN observed to date, their strong late-time UV emission is particularly distinctive, and they are nuclear at high resolution arguing against these being first cases of a previously unobserved class of SNe or more extreme examples of known SN types. Taken together, the observed properties are difficult to reconcile with an SN or an AGN-flare explanation, although an entirely new process specific to the inner few hundred parsecs of non-active galaxies cannot be excluded. Based on our observed rate, we infer that hundreds or thousands of TDEs will be present in current and next-generation optical synoptic surveys. Using the approach outlined here, a TDE candidate sample with O(1) purity can be selected using geometric resolution and host and flare color alone, demonstrating that a campaign to create a large sample of TDEs, with immediate and detailed multi-wavelength follow-up, is feasible. A by-product of this work is quantification of the power spectrum of extreme flares in AGNs.},
doi = {10.1088/0004-637X/741/2/73; COUNTRY OF INPUT: INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY (IAEA)},
url = {https://www.osti.gov/biblio/21612711}, journal = {Astrophysical Journal},
issn = {0004-637X},
number = 2,
volume = 741,
place = {United States},
year = {2011},
month = {11}
}