iPTF16fnl: a faint and fast tidal disruption event in an E+A galaxy

Research paper by N. Blagorodnova, S. Gezari, T. Hung, S. R. Kulkarni, S. B. Cenko, D. R. Pasham, L. Yan, I. Arcavi, S. Ben-Ami, B. D. Bue, T. Cantwell, Y. Cao, A. J. Castro-Tirado, R. Fender, C. Fremling, et al.

Indexed on: 02 Mar '17Published on: 02 Mar '17Published in: arXiv - Astrophysics - High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena


We present ground-based and \textit{Swift} observations of iPTF16fnl, a likely tidal disruption event (TDE) discovered by the intermediate Palomar Transient Factory (iPTF) survey at 66.6 Mpc. The lightcurve of the object peaked at absolute $M_g=-17.2$ mag. The maximum bolometric luminosity (from optical and UV) was $L_p~\simeq~(1.0\,\pm\,0.15) \times 10^{43}$erg/s, an order of magnitude fainter than any other optical TDE discovered so far. The luminosity in the first 60 days is consistent with an exponential decay, with $L \propto e^{-(t-t_0)/\tau}$, where $t_0$=~57631.0 (MJD) and $\tau\simeq 15$ days. The X-ray shows a marginal detection at $L_X=2.4^{1.9}_{-1.1}\times 10^{39}$ erg/s (\textit{Swift} X-ray Telescope). No radio counterpart was detected down to 3$\sigma$, providing upper limits for monochromatic radio luminosity of $L=3.8\times10^{26}$ erg/s and $L=7.6\times 10^{26}$erg/s (VLA, 6.1 and 22 GHz). The blackbody temperature, obtained from combined \textit{Swift} UV and optical photometry, shows a constant value of 19,000 K. The transient spectrum at peak is characterized by broad HeII and H$\alpha$ emission lines, with an FWHM of about 14,000 km/s and 10,000 km/s respectively. HeI lines are also detected at $\lambda\lambda$ 3188, 4026 and 6678. The spectrum of the host is dominated by strong Balmer absorption lines, which are consistent with a post-starburst (E+A) galaxy with an age of $\sim$650 Myr and solar metallicity. The characteristics of iPTF16fnl make it an outlier on both luminosity and decay timescales, as compared to other optically selected TDEs. The discovery of such a faint optical event suggests a higher rate of tidal disruptions, as low luminosity events may have gone unnoticed in previous searches.