iPTF16axa: A Tidal Disruption Event at z=0.108

Research paper by T. Hung, S. Gezari, N. Blagorodnova, N. Roth, S. B. Cenko, S. R. Kulkarni, A. Horesh, I. Arcavi, C. McCully, Lin Yan, R. Lunnan, C. Fremling, Y. Cao, P. E. Nugent, P. Wozniak

Indexed on: 03 Mar '17Published on: 03 Mar '17Published in: arXiv - Astrophysics - High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena


We report the discovery by the intermediate Palomar Transient Factory (iPTF) of tidal disruption event (TDE) candidate iPTF16axa at $z=0.108$, and present its broadband photometric and spectroscopic evolution from 3 months of follow-up observations with ground-based telescopes and \textsl{Swift}. The light curve is well fitted with a $t^{-5/3}$ decay, and we constrain the rise-time to peak to be $<$49 rest-frame days after disruption, a factor of $>3$ shorter than the fallback timescale expected for the $\sim 4\times$10$^{7}$ M$_\odot$ black hole inferred from the host galaxy luminosity. The UV and optical spectral energy distribution (SED) is well described by a constant blackbody temperature of T$\sim$ 3$\times$10$^4$ K over the monitoring period, with an observed peak luminosity of 1.1$\times$10$^{44}$ ergs$^{-1}$. The optical spectra are characterized by a strong blue continuum and broad \HeII \ and H$\alpha$ lines characteristic of TDEs. We compare the photometric and spectroscopic signatures of iPTF16axa with 11 TDEs in the literature with well-sampled optical light curves. Based on a single-temperature fit to the optical and near-UV photometry, most of these TDEs have peak luminosities confined between log (L [erg s$^{-1}$]) = 43.2-44.2, with constant temperatures of a few $\times 10^{4}$ K during their power-law declines, implying blackbody radii on the order of ten times the tidal disruption radius, that decrease monotonically with time. For TDEs with hydrogen and helium emission, the high helium-to-hydrogen ratios suggest that the emission arises from high-density gas, where nebular arguments break down. We find no correlation between the peak luminosity and the black hole mass, contrary to the expectations for TDEs to have $\dot{M} \propto M_{\rm BH}^{1/2}$.

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