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Birth of a relativistic outflow in the unusual y-ray transient Swift J164449.3+573451

Zauderer, B. A. and Carpenter, J. M. and Mooley, K. and Kulkarni, S. R. and Moerbeck, W. Max and Readhead, A. C. S. and Richards, J. and Shepherd, M. (2011) Birth of a relativistic outflow in the unusual y-ray transient Swift J164449.3+573451. Nature, 476 (7361). pp. 425-428. ISSN 0028-0836.

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Active galactic nuclei, which are powered by long-term accretion onto central supermassive black holes, produce relativistic jets with lifetimes of at least one million years, and the observation of the birth of such a jet is therefore unlikely. Transient accretion onto a supermassive black hole, for example through the tidal disruption of a stray star, thus offers a rare opportunity to study the birth of a relativistic jet. On 25 March 2011, an unusual transient source (Swift J164449.3+573451) was found, potentially representing such an accretion event. Here we report observations spanning centimetre to millimetre wavelengths and covering the first month of evolution of a luminous radio transient associated with Swift J164449.3+573451. The radio transient coincides with the nucleus of an inactive galaxy. We conclude that we are seeing a newly formed relativistic outflow, launched by transient accretion onto a million-solar-mass black hole. A relativistic outflow is not predicted in this situation, but we show that the tidal disruption of a star naturally explains the observed high-energy properties and radio luminosity and the inferred rate of such events. The weaker beaming in the radio-frequency spectrum relative to γ-rays or X-rays suggests that radio searches may uncover similar events out to redshifts of z ≈ 6.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription ReadCube Access
Zauderer, B. A.0000-0003-1152-518X
Carpenter, J. M.0000-0003-2251-0602
Mooley, K.0000-0002-2557-5180
Kulkarni, S. R.0000-0001-5390-8563
Readhead, A. C. S.0000-0001-9152-961X
Additional Information:© 2011 Macmillan Publishers Limited. Received 22 April 2011. Accepted 12 July 2011. Published online 24 August 2011. E.B. is supported in part by funds from NASA. A.L. is supported in part by NSF and NASA grants. R.M. acknowledges support from a Swift ASI grant and from the Ministry of Universities and Research of Italy. E.N. is partly supported by IRG and ISF grants. The EVLA and the Very Long Baseline Array are operated by the NRAO, a facility of the NSF operated under cooperative agreement by the AUI. The SMA is a joint project between the SAO and the ASIAA, and is funded by the Smithsonian Institution and the Academia Sinica. CARMA development and operations are supported by the NSF under a cooperative agreement, and by the Associates of the California Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago and the states of California, Illinois and Maryland. The AMI arrays are supported by the University of Cambridge and the STFC. This work is partly based on observations with the 100-m telescope of the MPIfR at Effelsberg. This work made use of data supplied by the UK Swift Science Data Centre at the University of Leicester. B.A.Z. and E.B. designed and coordinated the radio observations and analysis among all instruments reported here. B.A.Z. and D.A.F. performed EVLA observations, data reduction and analysis. G.R.P. observed the source with the SMA, and along with N.A.P. reduced and analysed the SMA observations. CARMA observations were set up, reduced and analysed by B.A.Z., J.M.C. and S.R.K. Fast-response CARMA observations were facilitated by N.H.V. and T.L.C., with the first CARMA observation made by S.S. and C.L.H.H. R.C. implemented and analysed MMT and Gemini optical observations. K.M. performed observations with the OVRO 40-m telescope and analysed results, with advice from S.R.K., A.C.S.R., J.R., M.S. and W.M-M. G.G.P. performed observations with the AMI Large Array and analysed the results. A.M.S., A.B., M.F.B. and M.P.R. planned observations with the VLBA and the MPIfR. A.B. reduced the VLBI data. R.M. analysed and modelled the X-ray data. A.L., R.N. and E.N. provided the theoretical model for a tidal disruption event. The paper was put together by B.A.Z. and E.B., with the primary text written by E.B. and portions of Supplementary Information written by E.B., B.A.Z., R.C., K.M. and A.B. D.B.F. provided feedback on the manuscript. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca (MIUR)UNSPECIFIED
Israel Science FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Smithsonian InstitutionUNSPECIFIED
Academia SinicaUNSPECIFIED
Associates of the California Institute of TechnologyUNSPECIFIED
University of ChicagoUNSPECIFIED
State of IllinoisUNSPECIFIED
University of CambridgeUNSPECIFIED
Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)UNSPECIFIED
State of CaliforniaUNSPECIFIED
State of MarylandUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Astronomy, Physics
Issue or Number:7361
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20110912-115417464
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:25308
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:13 Sep 2011 15:58
Last Modified:16 Nov 2019 00:10

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