Tidal disruption event

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A tidal disruption event (also known as a tidal disruption flare[1]) is an astronomical phenomenon that occurs when a star approaches sufficiently close to a supermassive black hole that it is pulled apart by the black hole's tidal force, experiencing spaghettification.[2][3] A portion of the star's mass can be captured into an accretion disk around the black hole, resulting in a temporary flare of electromagnetic radiation as matter in the disk is consumed by the black hole.


According to early papers (see History section), tidal disruption events should be an inevitable consequence of massive black holes activity hidden in galaxy nuclei, whereas later theorists concluded that the resulting explosion or flare of radiation from the accretion of the stellar debris could be a unique signpost for the presence of a dormant black hole in the center of a normal galaxy.[4]


It was in 1971 that for the first time the theorist John A. Wheeler[5] suggested that the breakup of a star in the ergosphere of a rotating black hole could induce acceleration of the released gas to relativistic speeds by the so-called "tube of toothpaste effect". Wheeler succeeded in applying the relativistic generalization of the classical Newtonian tidal disruption problem to the neighborhood of a Schwarzschild or a Kerr black hole (without axial rotation or in rotation, cf. Fishbone (1973) and Mashhoon (1975, 1977)). But these early works restricted their attention to incompressible star models and/or to stars penetrating slightly into the Roche radius, thus undergoing only tides of small amplitudes or, at best, only quiescent disruption phenomena (aka the future TDE).

In 1976 in the "MNRAS"[6] astronomers Juhan Frank and Martin F. Rees of the Cambridge Institute of Astronomy evoked for the first time "the effect of massive black holes on stellar systems", defining a critical radius under which stars are disturbed and literally sucked up by the black hole, suggesting that it is possible to observe these events in certain galaxies. But at the time, the English researchers did not propose any precise model or simulation.

This speculative prediction and this lack of theoretical tools aroused the curiosity of Jean-Pierre Luminet and Brandon Carter of the Paris Observatory in the early 1980s who invented the concept of TDE. Their first works were published in 1982 in the journal Nature[7] and in 1983 in the Astronomy & Astrophysics.[8] The authors had managed to describe the tidal disturbances in the heart of AGNs based on the "stellar pancake outbreak" model to use Luminet's expression, a model describing the tide field generated by a "big black hole" - let's say supermassive - and the effect they called the "pancake detonation" to qualify the radiation outbreak resulting from these disturbances.

Then in 1986, Luminet and Carter published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Supplement[9] an important article of 29 pages in which they analyzed all the cases of TDE and not only the 10% producing "spaghettifications" and other "pancakes flambées".

It was only a decade later, in 1990, that the first TDE-compliant candidates were detected through NASA's "All Sky" X-ray survey of NASA's ROSAT satellite[10]. Since then, more than a dozen candidates have been discovered, including more active sources in ultraviolet or visible for a reason that remained mysterious.


Finally, the theory of Luminet and Carter was confirmed by the observation of spectacular eruptions resulting from the accretion of stellar debris by a massive object located in the heart of the AGN (e.g. NGC 5128 or NGC 4438) but also in the heart of the Milky Way (Sgr A *). The TDE theory even explains the superluminous supernova SN 2015L, better known by the code name ASASSN-15lh, a marial supernova that exploded just before being absorbed beneath the horizon of a massive black hole.

Today, all known TDEs and TDE candidates have been listed in "The Open TDE Catalog"[11] run by the Harvard CfA, which has had 91 entries since 1999.

New observations[edit]

In September 2016, a team from the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, Anhui, China, announced that, using data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, a stellar tidal disruption event was observed at a known black hole. Another team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S., detected three additional events. In each case, astronomers hypothesized that the astrophysical jet created by the dying star would emit ultraviolet and X-ray radiation, which would be absorbed by dust surrounding the black hole and emitted as infrared radiation. Not only was this infrared emission detected, but they concluded that the delay between the jet's emission of ultraviolet and X-ray radiation and the dust's emission of infrared radiation may be used to estimate the size of the black hole devouring the star.[12][13][14]

In September 2019, Scientists using the TESS satellite announced they had witnessed a tidal disruption event of the star ASASSN-19bt, 375 million light years away.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Merloni, A.; Dwelly, T.; Salvato, M.; Georgakakis, A.; Greiner, J.; Krumpe, M.; Nandra, K.; Ponti, G.; Rau, A. (2015). "A tidal disruption flare in a massive galaxy? Implications for the fueling mechanisms of nuclear black holes". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 452: 69. arXiv:1503.04870. Bibcode:2015MNRAS.452...69M. doi:10.1093/mnras/stv1095.
  2. ^ "Astronomers See a Massive Black Hole Tear a Star Apart". Universe today. 28 January 2015. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  3. ^ "Tidal Disruption of a Star By a Massive Black Hole". Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  4. ^ Gezari, Suvi (11 June 2013). "Tidal Disruption Events". Brazilian Journal of Physics. 43 (5–6): 351–355. Bibcode:2013BrJPh..43..351G. doi:10.1007/s13538-013-0136-z.
  5. ^ Wheeler,J.A., 1971, Pontificae Acad. Sei. Scripta Varia, 35, 539
  6. ^ Frank, J.; Rees, M. J. (1976). "Effects of massive black holes on dense stellar systems". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 176 (3): 633–647. Bibcode:1976MNRAS.176..633F. doi:10.1093/mnras/176.3.633.
  7. ^ Carter, B.; Luminet, J.-P. (1982). "Pancake detonation of stars by black holes in galactic nuclei". Nature. 296 (5854): 211–214. Bibcode:1982Natur.296..211C. doi:10.1038/296211a0.
  8. ^ Carter, B.; Luminet, J.-P. (1983). "Tidal compression of a star by a large black hole. I Mechanical evolution and nuclear energy release by proton capture". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 121 (1): 97. Bibcode:1983A&A...121...97C.
  9. ^ Luminet, J.-.P; Carter, B. (1986). "Dynamics of an Affine Star Model in a Black Hole Tidal Field". The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series. 61: 219. Bibcode:1986ApJS...61..219L. doi:10.1086/191113.
  10. ^ "The ROSAT All Sky Survey".
  11. ^ https://tde.space/
  12. ^ Gray, Richard (16 September 2016). "Echoes of a stellar massacre: Gasps of dying stars as they are torn apart by supermassive black holes are detected". Daily Mail. Retrieved 16 September 2016
  13. ^ van Velzen, Sjoert; Mendez, Alexander J.; Krolik, Julian H.; Gorjian, Varoujan (15 September 2016). "Discovery of transient infrared emission from dust heated by stellar tidal disruption flares". The Astrophysical Journal. 829 (1): 19. arXiv:1605.04304. Bibcode:2016ApJ...829...19V. doi:10.3847/0004-637X/829/1/19
  14. ^ Jiang, Ning; Dou, Liming; Wang, Tinggui; Yang, Chenwei; Lyu, Jianwei; Zhou, Hongyan (1 September 2016). "The WISE Detection of an Infrared Echo in Tidal Disruption Event ASASSN-14li". The Astrophysical Journal Letters. 828 (1): L14. arXiv:1605.04640. Bibcode:2016ApJ...828L..14J. doi:10.3847/2041-8205/828/1/L14.

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