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Optical discovery of probable stellar tidal disruption flares  [PDF]
Sjoert van Velzen,Glennys R. Farrar,Suvi Gezari,Nidia Morrell,Dennis Zaritsky,Linda Ostman,Mathew Smith,Joseph Gelfand,Andrew J. Drake
Physics , 2010, DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/741/2/73
Abstract: Using archival SDSS multi-epoch imaging data (Stripe 82), we have searched for the tidal disruption of stars by super-massive black holes in non-active galaxies. Two candidate tidal disruption events (TDEs) are identified. They have optical black-body temperatures 2 10^4 K and observed peak luminosities M_g=-18.3 and -20.4; their cooling rates are very low, qualitatively consistent with expectations for tidal disruption flares. Their properties are examined using i) SDSS imaging to compare them to other flares observed in the search, ii) UV emission measured by GALEX and iii) spectra of the hosts and of one of the flares. Our pipeline excludes optically identifiable AGN hosts, and our variability monitoring over 9 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 their 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 a SN or AGN-flare explanation, although an entirely new process specific to the inner few-hundred parsecs of non-active galaxies cannot be excluded. Our observed rate and method show the feasibility of obtaining a candidate TDE sample of hundreds of events and O(1) purity, using geometric resolution and host and flare color alone. A by-product of this work is quantification of the power-spectrum of extreme flares in AGNs.
Measurement of the rate of stellar tidal disruption flares  [PDF]
Sjoert van Velzen,Glennys R. Farrar
Physics , 2014, DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/792/1/53
Abstract: We report an observational estimate of the rate of stellar tidal disruption flares (TDFs) in inactive galaxies, based on a successful search for these events among transients in galaxies using archival SDSS multi-epoch imaging data (Stripe 82). This search yielded 186 nuclear flares in galaxies, of which two are excellent TDF candidates. Because of the systematic nature of the search, the very large number of galaxies, the long time of observation, and the fact that non-TDFs were excluded without resorting to assumptions about TDF characteristics, this study provides an unparalleled opportunity to measure the TDF rate. To compute the rate of optical stellar tidal disruption events, we simulate our entire pipeline to obtain the efficiency of detection. The rate depends on the light curves of TDFs, which are presently still poorly constrained. Using only the observed part of the SDSS light curves gives a model-independent upper limit to the optical TDF rate: < 2 10^-4 per year per galaxy (90% CL). We develop three empirical models of the light curves, based on the two SDSS light curves and two more recent and better-sampled Pan-STARRS TDF light curves, leading to our best-estimate of the rate: (1.5 - 2.0)_{-1.3}^{+2.7} 10^-5 per year per galaxy. We explore the modeling uncertainties by considering two theoretically motivated light curve models, as well as two different relationships between black hole mass and galaxy luminosity, and two different treatments of the cutoff in the visibility of TDFs at large black hole mass. From this we conclude that these sources of uncertainty are not significantly larger than the statistical ones. Our results are applicable for galaxies hosting black holes with mass in the range of few million to 10^8 solar masses, and translates to a volumetric TDF rate of (4 - 8) 10^-8 per year per cubic Mpc.
Flares from the Tidal Disruption of Stars by Massive Black Holes  [PDF]
Andrew Ulmer
Physics , 1997, DOI: 10.1063/1.55887
Abstract: Tidal disruption flares are differentiated into two classes -- those which are sub-Eddington and those which radiate near the Eddington limit. Flares from black holes above ~2 x 10^7 M_\odot will generally not radiate above the Eddington limit. For a Schwarzschild black hole, the maximum bolometric luminosity of a tidal disruption is ~L_Edd(5 x 10^7 M_\odot), substantially below the Eddington luminosities of the most massive disrupting black holes (~2 x 10^8 M_\odot). Bolometric corrections to the spectra of the brightest flares are found to be large (~7.5 mag). Nevertheless, the brightest flares are likely to have absolute magnitudes in excess of -19 in V and -21 in U (in the absence of reddening). Because the spectra are so blue, K-corrections may actually brighten the flares in optical bands. If such flares are as frequent as believed, they may soon be detected in low or high redshift supernovae searches. The He II ionizing radiation produced in the flares may dominate that which is produced by all other sources in the centers of quiescent galaxies, creating a steady state, highly ionized, fossil nebula with an extent of ~1 kpc which may be observable in recombination lines.
Tidal Disruption Flares of Stars From Moderately Recoiled Black Holes  [PDF]
Nicholas Stone,Abraham Loeb
Physics , 2011, DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2966.2012.20577.x
Abstract: We analyze stellar tidal disruption events as a possible observational signature of gravitational wave induced recoil of supermassive black holes. As a black hole wanders through its galaxy, it will tidally disrupt bound and unbound stars at rates potentially observable by upcoming optical transient surveys. To quantify these rates, we explore a broad range of host galaxy and black hole kick parameters. We find that emission from a transient accretion disk can produce ~1 event per year which LSST would identify as spatially offset, while super-Eddington tidal flares, if they exist, are likely to produce ~10 spatially offset events per year. A majority of tidal disruption flares, and a large majority of flares with an observable spatial offset, are due to bound rather than unbound stars. The total number of disruption events due to recoiled black holes could be almost 1% of the total stellar tidal disruption rate.
Sgr A* flares: tidal disruption of asteroids and planets?  [PDF]
Kastytis Zubovas,Sergei Nayakshin,Sera Markoff
Physics , 2011, DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2966.2011.20389.x
Abstract: It is theoretically expected that a supermassive black hole (SMBH) in the centre of a typical nearby galaxy disrupts a Solar-type star every ~ 10^5 years, resulting in a bright flare lasting for months. Sgr A*, the resident SMBH of the Milky Way, produces (by comparison) tiny flares that last only hours but occur daily. Here we explore the possibility that these flares could be produced by disruption of smaller bodies - asteroids. We show that asteroids passing within an AU of Sgr A* could be split into smaller fragments which then vaporise by bodily friction with the tenuous quiescent gas accretion flow onto Sgr A*. The ensuing shocks and plasma instabilities may create a transient population of very hot electrons invoked in several currently popular models for Sgr A* flares, thus producing the required spectra. We estimate that asteroids larger than ~ 10 km in size are needed to power the observed flares, with the maximum possible luminosity of the order 10^39 erg s^-1. Assuming that the asteroid population per parent star in the central parsec of the Milky Way is not too dissimilar from that around stars in the Solar neighbourhood, we estimate the asteroid disruption rates, and the distribution of the expected luminosities, finding a reasonable agreement with the observations. We also note that planets may be tidally disrupted by Sgr A* as well, also very infrequently. We speculate that one such disruption may explain the putative increase in Sgr A* luminosity ~ 300 yr ago.
Multiple tidal disruption flares in the active galaxy IC 3599  [PDF]
S. Campana,D. Mainetti,M. Colpi,G. Lodato,P. D'Avanzo,P. A. Evans,A. Moretti
Physics , 2015, DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201525965
Abstract: Tidal disruption events occur when a star passes too close to a massive black hole and it is totally ripped apart by tidal forces. It may also happen that the star is not close enough to the black hole to be totally disrupted and a less dramatic event might happen. If the stellar orbit is bound and highly eccentric, just like some stars in the centre of our own Galaxy, repeated flares should occur. When the star approaches the black hole tidal radius at periastron, matter might be stripped resulting in lower intensity outbursts recurring once every orbital period. We report on Swift observations of a recent bright flare from the galaxy IC 3599 hosting a middle-weight black hole, where a possible tidal disruption event was observed in the early 1990s. By light curve modelling and spectral fitting we can consistently account for the events as the non-disruptive tidal stripping of a star into a highly eccentric orbit. The recurrence time is 9.5 yr. IC 3599 is also known to host a low-luminosity active galactic nucleus. Tidal stripping from this star over several orbital passages might be able to spoon-feed also this activity.
The rate of stellar tidal disruption flares from SDSS data  [cached]
van Velzen S.,Farrar G.R.
EPJ Web of Conferences , 2012, DOI: 10.1051/epjconf/20123908002
Abstract: We have searched for flares due to the tidal disruption of stars by supermassive black holes in archival Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) multi-epoch imaging data. Our pipeline takes advantage of the excellent astrometry of SDSS to separate nuclear flares from supernovae. The 10 year baseline and the high cadence of the observations facilitate a clear-cut identification of variable active galactic nuclei. We found 186 nuclear flares, of which two are strong stellar tidal disruption flare (TDF) candidates. To compute the rate of these events, we simulated our entire pipeline to obtain the efficiency of detection for a given light curve. We compute a model-independent upper limit to the TDF rate of < 3 × 10 4 yr 1galaxy 1 (90% CL). Using a simple model to extrapolate the observed light curve forward and backward in time, we find our best-estimate of the rate: = 3-3+5 × 10 5 yr 1galaxy 1.
Tidal disruption flares from stars on eccentric orbits  [cached]
Hayasaki K.,Stone N.,Loeb A.
EPJ Web of Conferences , 2012, DOI: 10.1051/epjconf/20123901004
Abstract: We study tidal disruption and subsequent mass fallback for stars approaching supermassive black holes on bound orbits, by performing three dimensional Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics simulations with a pseudo-Newtonian potential. We find that the mass fallback rate decays with the expected -5/3 power of time for parabolic orbits, albeit with a slight deviation due to the self-gravity of the stellar debris. For eccentric orbits, however, there is a critical value of the orbital eccentricity, significantly below which all of the stellar debris is bound to the supermassive black hole. All the mass therefore falls back to the supermassive black hole in a much shorter time than in the standard, parabolic case. The resultant mass fallback rate considerably exceeds the Eddington accretion rate and substantially differs from the -5/3 power of time.
Tidal disruption flares as the source of ultra-high energy cosmic rays  [cached]
Farrar G.R.
EPJ Web of Conferences , 2012, DOI: 10.1051/epjconf/20123907005
Abstract: The optical spectral energy distributions of two tidal disruption flares identified by van Velzen et al. (2011) in archival SDSS data, are found to be well-fit by a thin-accretion-disk model. Furthermore, the inferred Supermassive Black Hole mass values agree well with the SMBH masses estimated from the host galaxy properties. Integrating the model SEDs to include shorter wavelength contributions provides an estimate of the bolometric luminosities of the accretion disks. The resultant bolometric luminosities are well in excess of the minimum required for accelerating UHECR protons. In combination with the recent observational estimate of the TDF rate (van Velzen and Farrar, these Proceedings), the results presented here strengthen the case that transient jets formed in tidal disruption events may be responsible for accelerating all or most UHECRs.
Tidal Disruption Flares: The Accretion Disk Phase  [PDF]
Matias Montesinos,José A. de Freitas Pacheco
Physics , 2011, DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/736/2/126
Abstract: The evolution of an accretion disk, formed as a consequence of the disruption of a star by a black hole, is followed by solving numerically the hydrodynamic equations. The present investigation aims to study the dependence of resulting light curves on dynamical and physical properties of such a transient disk during its existence. One of main results derived from our simulations is that black body fits of X-ray data tend to overestimate the true mean disk temperature. The temperature derived from black body fits should be identified with the color X-ray temperature rather than the average value derived from the true temperature distribution along the disk. The time interval between the beginning of the circularization of the bound debris and the beginning of the accretion process by the black hole is determined by the viscous timescale, which fixes also the raising part of the resulting light curve. The luminosity peak coincides with the beginning of matter accretion by the black hole and the late evolution of the light curve depends on the evolution of the debris fallback rate. Peak bolometric luminosities are in the range 10^45-10^46 erg s^-1 whereas peak luminosities in soft X-rays (0.2-2.0 keV) are typically one order of magnitude lower. The timescale derived from our preferred models for the flare luminosity to decay by two orders of magnitude is about 3-4 years. Predicted soft X-ray light curves were fitted to data on galaxies in which a variable X-ray emission, related to tidal events, was detected.
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