A dust-enshrouded tidal disruption event with a resolved radio jet in a galaxy merger

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Science  03 Aug 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6401, pp. 482-485
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao4669

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An expanding radio jet from a destroyed star

If a star gets too close to a supermassive black hole, it gets ripped apart in a tidal disruption event (TDE). Mattila et al. discovered a transient source in the merging galaxy pair Arp 299, which they interpret as a TDE. The optical light is hidden by dust, but the TDE generated copious infrared emission. Radio observations reveal that a relativistic jet was produced as material fell onto the black hole, with the jet expanding over several years. The results elucidate how jets form around supermassive black holes and suggest that many TDEs may be missed by optical surveys.

Science, this issue p. 482


Tidal disruption events (TDEs) are transient flares produced when a star is ripped apart by the gravitational field of a supermassive black hole (SMBH). We have observed a transient source in the western nucleus of the merging galaxy pair Arp 299 that radiated >1.5 × 1052 erg at infrared and radio wavelengths but was not luminous at optical or x-ray wavelengths. We interpret this as a TDE with much of its emission reradiated at infrared wavelengths by dust. Efficient reprocessing by dense gas and dust may explain the difference between theoretical predictions and observed luminosities of TDEs. The radio observations resolve an expanding and decelerating jet, probing the jet formation and evolution around a SMBH.

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