A radio jet from the optical and x-ray bright stellar tidal disruption flare ASASSN-14li

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Science  01 Jan 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6268, pp. 62-65
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad1182

Transient radio jet from a black hole

When a star passes too close to a supermassive black hole, it gets ripped apart by the gravitational forces. This causes a tidal disruption flare as the material falls into the black hole. van Velzen et al. monitored one such flare with radio telescopes and found evidence for a transient relativistic jet launched by the black hole (see the Perspective by Bower). Larger jets are a feature of active galactic nuclei and have a profound effect on their host galaxy, but are poorly understood. The results will aid our understanding of how black holes “feed” and of the processes governing jet formation.

Science, this issue p. 62; see also p. 30


The tidal disruption of a star by a supermassive black hole leads to a short-lived thermal flare. Despite extensive searches, radio follow-up observations of known thermal stellar tidal disruption flares (TDFs) have not yet produced a conclusive detection. We present a detection of variable radio emission from a thermal TDF, which we interpret as originating from a newly launched jet. The multiwavelength properties of the source present a natural analogy with accretion-state changes of stellar mass black holes, which suggests that all TDFs could be accompanied by a jet. In the rest frame of the TDF, our radio observations are an order of magnitude more sensitive than nearly all previous upper limits, explaining how these jets, if common, could thus far have escaped detection.

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