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Ultraviolet detection of the tidal disruption of a star by a supermassive black hole

Gezari, S. and Martin, D. C. and Milliard, B. and Basa, S. and Halpern, J. P. and Forster, K. and Friedman, P. G. and Morrissey, P. and Neff, S. G. and Schiminovich, D. and Seibert, M. and Small, T. and Wyder, T. K. (2006) Ultraviolet detection of the tidal disruption of a star by a supermassive black hole. Astrophysical Journal, 653 (1). L25-L28. ISSN 0004-637X. doi:10.1086/509918.

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A supermassive black hole in the nucleus of a galaxy will be revealed when a star passes close enough to be torn apart by tidal forces and a flare of radiation is emitted by the stream of stellar debris that plunges into the black hole. Since common active galactic nuclei have accreting black holes that can also produce flares, a convincing demonstration that a stellar tidal disruption has occurred generally begins with a "normal" galaxy that has no evidence of prior nuclear activity. Here we,report a luminous UV flare from an elliptical galaxy at z=0.37 in the Groth field of the GALEX Deep Imaging Survey that has no evidence of a Seyfert nucleus from optical spectroscopy and X-ray imaging obtained during the flare. Multiwavelength data collected at the time of the event, and for 2 years following, allow us to constrain, for the first time, the spectral energy distribution of a candidate tidal disruption flare from optical through X-rays. The luminosity and temperature of the radiation and the decay curve of the flare are in excellent agreement with theoretical predictions for the tidal disruption of a star, and provide the strongest empirical evidence for a stellar disruption event to date.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Gezari, S.0000-0003-3703-5154
Martin, D. C.0000-0002-8650-1644
Forster, K.0000-0001-5800-5531
Morrissey, P.0000-0001-8177-1023
Seibert, M.0000-0002-1143-5515
Additional Information:© 2006 The American Astronomical Society. Received 2006 August 24; accepted 2006 October 6; published 2006 December 1. We thank the anonymous referee for helpful comments, including the suggestion to add a discussion of the radius of the flare emission. We thank C. L. Slesnick for carrying out our target-of-opportunity observation with the Double Spectrograph on the Palomar 200 inch telescope, V. Villar for the two dimensional bulge/disk composition of the AEGIS HST ACS image, and S. M. Moran for measurement of the stellar velocity dispersion of the AEGIS DEEP2 DEIMOS spectrum. S. G. was supported in part by the Volontariat International-CNES of France, and through Chandra Grant Award G06-7099X issued by the Chandra X-ray Observatory, which is operated by the SAO for and on behalf of NASA. We gratefully acknowledge NASA’s support for construction, operation, and science analysis for the GALEX mission, developed in cooperation with CNES and the Korean Ministry of Science and Technology. The AEGIS collaboration acknowledges support from the NASA/ESA HST grant GO-10134 for the Extended Groth Strip observations, obtained at STScI, which is operated by AURA, Inc., under a NASA contract. The AEGIS collaboration also acknowledges support from the NSF grant AST 05-07483 for the DEEP2 survey observations with DEIMOS at the W. M. Keck Observatory. This work is based on observations obtained with MegaPrime/MegaCam, a joint project of CFHT and CEA/ DAPNIA, at the CFHT which is operated by the NRC of Canada, the CNRS of France, and the University of Hawaii. This work is also based in part on data products produced at TERAPIX and the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre as part of the CFHT Legacy Survey, a collaborative project of NRC and CNRS.
Group:Space Radiation Laboratory, Space Astrophysics Laboratory
Funding AgencyGrant Number
NASA/European Space Agency Hubble Space TelescopeGO-10134
NSFAST 05-07483
Chandra grant awardG06-7099X
Volontariat International-CNESUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:galaxies: nuclei; ultraviolet: galaxies
Issue or Number:1
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:GEZapjl06
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:13695
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:09 Jul 2009 18:06
Last Modified:08 Nov 2021 22:39

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