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Seventeen Tidal Disruption Events from the First Half of ZTF Survey Observations: Entering a New Era of Population Studies

van Velzen, Sjoert and Gezari, Suvi and Hammerstein, Erica and Roth, Nathaniel and Frederick, Sara and Ward, Charlotte and Hung, Tiara and Cenko, S. Bradley and Stein, Robert and Perley, Daniel A. and Taggart, Kirsty and Foley, Ryan J. and Sollerman, Jesper and Blagorodnova, Nadejda and Andreoni, Igor and Bellm, Eric C. and Brinnel, Valery and De, Kishalay and Dekany, Richard and Feeney, Michael and Fremling, Christoffer and Giomi, Matteo and Golkhou, V. Zach and Graham, Matthew J. and Ho, Anna Y. Q. and Kasliwal, Mansi M. and Kilpatrick, Charles D. and Kulkarni, Shrinivas R. and Kupfer, Thomas and Laher, Russ R. and Mahabal, Ashish and Masci, Frank J. and Miller, Adam A. and Nordin, Jakob and Riddle, Reed and Rusholme, Ben and van Santen, Jakob and Sharma, Yashvi and Shupe, David L. and Soumagnac, Maayane T. (2021) Seventeen Tidal Disruption Events from the First Half of ZTF Survey Observations: Entering a New Era of Population Studies. Astrophysical Journal, 908 (1). Art. No. 4. ISSN 1538-4357.

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While tidal disruption events (TDEs) have long been heralded as laboratories for the study of quiescent black holes, the small number of known TDEs and uncertainties in their emission mechanism have hindered progress toward this promise. Here we present 17 new TDEs that have been detected recently by the Zwicky Transient Facility along with Swift UV and X-ray follow-up observations. Our homogeneous analysis of the optical/UV light curves, including 22 previously known TDEs from the literature, reveals a clean separation of light-curve properties with spectroscopic class. The TDEs with Bowen fluorescence features in their optical spectra have smaller blackbody radii, lower optical luminosities, and higher disruption rates compared to the rest of the sample. The small subset of TDEs that show only helium emission lines in their spectra have the longest rise times, the highest luminosities, and the lowest rates. A high detection rate of Bowen lines in TDEs with small photometric radii could be explained by the high density that is required for this fluorescence mechanism. The stellar debris can provide a source for this dense material. Diffusion of photons through this debris may explain why the rise and fade timescale of the TDEs in our sample are not correlated. We also report, for the first time, the detection of soft X-ray flares from a TDE on ~day timescales. Based on the fact that the X-ray flares peak at a luminosity similar to the optical/UV blackbody luminosity, we attribute them to brief glimpses through a reprocessing layer that otherwise obscures the inner accretion flow.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Paper
van Velzen, Sjoert0000-0002-3859-8074
Gezari, Suvi0000-0003-3703-5154
Hammerstein, Erica0000-0002-5698-8703
Roth, Nathaniel0000-0002-6485-2259
Frederick, Sara0000-0001-9676-730X
Ward, Charlotte0000-0002-4557-6682
Hung, Tiara0000-0002-9878-7889
Cenko, S. Bradley0000-0003-1673-970X
Stein, Robert0000-0003-2434-0387
Perley, Daniel A.0000-0001-8472-1996
Taggart, Kirsty0000-0002-5748-4558
Sollerman, Jesper0000-0003-1546-6615
Blagorodnova, Nadejda0000-0003-0901-1606
Andreoni, Igor0000-0002-8977-1498
Bellm, Eric C.0000-0001-8018-5348
De, Kishalay0000-0002-8989-0542
Dekany, Richard0000-0002-5884-7867
Fremling, Christoffer0000-0002-4223-103X
Golkhou, V. Zach0000-0001-8205-2506
Graham, Matthew J.0000-0002-3168-0139
Ho, Anna Y. Q.0000-0002-9017-3567
Kasliwal, Mansi M.0000-0002-5619-4938
Kilpatrick, Charles D.0000-0002-5740-7747
Kulkarni, Shrinivas R.0000-0001-5390-8563
Kupfer, Thomas0000-0002-6540-1484
Laher, Russ R.0000-0003-2451-5482
Mahabal, Ashish0000-0003-2242-0244
Masci, Frank J.0000-0002-8532-9395
Miller, Adam A.0000-0001-9515-478X
Nordin, Jakob0000-0001-8342-6274
Riddle, Reed0000-0002-0387-370X
Rusholme, Ben0000-0001-7648-4142
Sharma, Yashvi0000-0003-4531-1745
Shupe, David L.0000-0003-4401-0430
Soumagnac, Maayane T.0000-0001-6753-1488
Additional Information:© 2021. The American Astronomical Society. Received 2020 January 13; revised 2020 October 6; accepted 2020 October 9; published 2021 February 8. We thank the referee for the useful and constructive comments. Based on observations obtained with the Samuel Oschin Telescope 48 inch and the 60 inch Telescope at the Palomar Observatory as part of the Zwicky Transient Facility project. ZTF is supported by the National Science Foundation under grant No. AST-1440341 and a collaboration including Caltech, IPAC, the Weizmann Institute for Science, the Oskar Klein Center at Stockholm University, the University of Maryland, the University of Washington, Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron and Humboldt University, Los Alamos National Laboratories, the TANGO Consortium of Taiwan, the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories. Operations are conducted by COO, IPAC, and UW. SED Machine is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant No. 1106171. We thank the Swift team, including the Observation Duty Scientists, and the science planners for promptly approving and executing our Swift observations. We also acknowledge the use of public data from the Swift data archive. This work made use of data supplied by the UK Swift Science Data Centre at the University of Leicester. These results made use of the Discovery Channel Telescope at Lowell Observatory. Lowell is a private, nonprofit institution dedicated to astrophysical research and public appreciation of astronomy and operates the DCT in partnership with Boston University, the University of Maryland, the University of Toledo, Northern Arizona University and Yale University. The upgrade of the De Veny optical spectrograph has been funded by a generous grant from John and Ginger Giovale. The W. M. Keck Observatory is operated as a scientific partnership among the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, and NASA; the Observatory was made possible by the generous financial support of the W. M. Keck Foundation. The Liverpool Telescope is operated on the island of La Palma by Liverpool John Moores University in the Spanish Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos of the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias with financial support from the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council. Research at Lick Observatory is partially supported by a generous gift from Google. We thank J. Brown and M. Siebert for help with Keck observations. The Pan-STARRS1 Surveys (PS1) have been made possible through contributions of the Institute for Astronomy, the University of Hawaii, the Pan-STARRS Project Office, the Max-Planck Society and its participating institutes, the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg, and the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, The Johns Hopkins University, Durham University, the University of Edinburgh, Queen's University Belfast, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network Incorporated, the National Central University of Taiwan, the Space Telescope Science Institute, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under grant No. NNX08AR22G issued through the Planetary Science Division of the NASA Science Mission Directorate, the National Science Foundation under grant No. AST-1238877, the University of Maryland, and Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE). This project used data obtained with the Dark Energy Camera (DECam), which was constructed by the Dark Energy Survey (DES) collaboration. Funding for the DES Projects has been provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. National Science Foundation, the Ministry of Science and Education of Spain, the Science and Technology Facilities Council of the United Kingdom, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Kavli Institute of Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago, Center for Cosmology and Astro-Particle Physics at the Ohio State University, the Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy at Texas A&M University, Financiadora de Estudos e Projetos, Fundacao Carlos Chagas Filho de Amparo, Financiadora de Estudos e Projetos, Fundacao Carlos Chagas Filho de Amparo a Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Cientifico e Tecnologico and the Ministerio da Ciencia, Tecnologia e Inovacao, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and the Collaborating Institutions in the Dark Energy Survey. The Collaborating Institutions are Argonne National Laboratory, the University of California at Santa Cruz, the University of Cambridge, Centro de Investigaciones Energeticas, Medioambientales y Tecnologicas-Madrid, the University of Chicago, University College London, the DES-Brazil Consortium, the University of Edinburgh, the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zurich, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Institut de Ciencies de l'Espai (IEEC/CSIC), the Institut de Fisica d'Altes Energies, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Ludwig-Maximilians Universitat Munchen and the associated Excellence Cluster Universe, the University of Michigan, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, the University of Nottingham, the Ohio State University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Portsmouth, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Stanford University, the University of Sussex, and Texas A&M University. The national facility capability for SkyMapper has been funded through ARC LIEF grant LE130100104 from the Australian Research Council, awarded to the University of Sydney, the Australian National University, Swinburne University of Technology, the University of Queensland, the University of Western Australia, the University of Melbourne, Curtin University of Technology, Monash University and the Australian Astronomical Observatory. SkyMapper is owned and operated by The Australian National University's Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics. The survey data were processed and provided by the SkyMapper Team at ANU. The SkyMapper node of the All-Sky Virtual Observatory (ASVO) is hosted at the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI). Development and support the SkyMapper node of the ASVO has been funded in part by Astronomy Australia Limited (AAL) and the Australian Government through the Commonwealth's Education Investment Fund (EIF) and National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS), particularly the National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources (NeCTAR) and the Australian National Data Service Projects (ANDS). This research has made use of the SVO Filter Profile Service ( supported from the Spanish MINECO through grant AYA2017-84089. S.v.V. is supported by the James Arthur Postdoctoral Fellowship. S.G. is supported in part by NSF CAREER grant 1454816 and NSF AAG grant 1616566. N.R. acknowledges the support of a Joint Space-Science Institute prize postdoctoral fellowship. This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (grant agreement No. 759194—USNAC). A.Y.Q.H. is supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship under grant No. DGE-1144469. This work was supported by the GROWTH project funded by the National Science Foundation under PIRE grant No. 1545949. C.F. gratefully acknowledges support of his research by the Heising-Simons Foundation (#2018-0907). The UCSC transient team is supported in part by NSF grant AST-1518052, NASA/Swift grant 80NSSC19K1386, the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, and by a fellowship from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation to R.J.F. Software: Ampel (Nordin et al. 2019), Astropy (Astropy Collaboration et al. 2018), catsHTM (Soumagnac & Ofek 2018), emcee (Foreman-Mackey et al. 2013), extcats (, gPhoton (Million et al. 2016), HEAsoft (Arnaud 1996), FSPS (Conroy et al. 2009; Conroy & Gunn 2010; Foreman-Mackey et al. 2014), Prospector (Johnson & Leja 2017).
Group:Astronomy Department, Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC), Zwicky Transient Facility
Funding AgencyGrant Number
ZTF partner institutionsUNSPECIFIED
John and Ginger GiovaleUNSPECIFIED
W. M. Keck FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)UNSPECIFIED
Eotvos Lorand University (ELTE)UNSPECIFIED
Australian Research CouncilLE130100104
Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Competitividad (MINECO)AYA2017-84089
James Arthur FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Joint Space-Science InstituteUNSPECIFIED
European Research Council (ERC)759194
NSF Graduate Research FellowshipDGE-1144469
Heising-Simons Foundation2018-0907
Gordon and Betty Moore FoundationUNSPECIFIED
David and Lucile Packard FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Astrophysical black holes ; Tidal disruption ; Galaxy nuclei
Issue or Number:1
Classification Code:Unified Astronomy Thesaurus concepts: Astrophysical black holes (98); Tidal disruption (1696); Galaxy nuclei (609)
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20200414-075012273
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Sjoert van Velzen et al 2021 ApJ 908 4
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:102520
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:14 Apr 2020 16:09
Last Modified:09 Feb 2021 17:03

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