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A very luminous jet from the disruption of a star by a massive black hole

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posted on 2023-01-10, 10:44 authored by I Andreoni, MW Coughlin, DA Perley, Y Yao, W Lu, SB Cenko, H Kumar, S Anand, AYQ Ho, MM Kasliwal, A de Ugarte Postigo, A Sagués-Carracedo, S Schulze, DA Kann, SR Kulkarni, J Sollerman, N Tanvir, A Rest, L Izzo, JJ Somalwar, DL Kaplan, T Ahumada, GC Anupama, K Auchettl, S Barway, EC Bellm, V Bhalerao, JS Bloom, M Bremer, M Bulla, E Burns, S Campana, P Chandra, P Charalampopoulos, J Cooke, V D’Elia, KK Das, D Dobie, JFA Fernández, J Freeburn, C Fremling, S Gezari, S Goode, MJ Graham, E Hammerstein, VR Karambelkar, CD Kilpatrick, EC Kool, M Krips, RR Laher, G Leloudas, A Levan, MJ Lundquist, AA Mahabal, MS Medford, MC Miller, A Möller, KP Mooley, AJ Nayana, G Nir, PTH Pang, E Paraskeva, RA Perley, G Petitpas, M Pursiainen, V Ravi, R Ridden-Harper, R Riddle, M Rigault, AC Rodriguez, B Rusholme, Y Sharma, IA Smith, RD Stein, C Thöne, A Tohuvavohu, F Valdes, J van Roestel, SD Vergani, Q Wang, J Zhang
Tidal disruption events (TDEs) are bursts of electromagnetic energy that are released when supermassive black holes at the centres of galaxies violently disrupt a star that passes too close1. TDEs provide a window through which to study accretion onto supermassive black holes; in some rare cases, this accretion leads to launching of a relativistic jet2–9, but the necessary conditions are not fully understood. The best-studied jetted TDE so far is Swift J1644+57, which was discovered in γ-rays, but was too obscured by dust to be seen at optical wavelengths. Here we report the optical detection of AT2022cmc, a rapidly fading source at cosmological distance (redshift z = 1.19325) the unique light curve of which transitioned into a luminous plateau within days. Observations of a bright counterpart at other wavelengths, including X-ray, submillimetre and radio, supports the interpretation of AT2022cmc as a jetted TDE containing a synchrotron ‘afterglow’, probably launched by a supermassive black hole with spin greater than approximately 0.3. Using four years of Zwicky Transient Facility10 survey data, we calculate a rate of 0.02−0.01+0.04 per gigapascals cubed per year for on-axis jetted TDEs on the basis of the luminous, fast-fading red component, thus providing a measurement complementary to the rates derived from X-ray and radio observations11. Correcting for the beaming angle effects, this rate confirms that approximately 1 per cent of TDEs have relativistic jets. Optical surveys can use AT2022cmc as a prototype to unveil a population of jetted TDEs.

History

Author affiliation

Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester

Version

  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Published in

Nature

Volume

612

Pagination

430-434

Publisher

Springer Science and Business Media LLC

issn

0028-0836

eissn

1476-4687

Copyright date

2022

Available date

2023-05-30

Spatial coverage

England

Language

eng

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