A luminous, fast rising UV-transient discovered by rotse: A tidal disruption event?

J. Vinkó*, F. Yuan, R. M. Quimby, J. C. Wheeler, E. Ramirez-Ruiz, J. Guillochon, E. Chatzopoulos, G. H. Marion, C. Akerlof

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    74 Citations (Scopus)


    We present follow-up observations of an optical transient (OT) discovered by ROTSE on 2009 January 21. Photometric monitoring was carried out with ROTSE-IIIb in the optical and Swift in the UV up to +70 days after discovery. The light curve showed a fast rise time of ∼10 days followed by a steep decline over the next 60 days, which was much faster than that implied by 56Ni-56Co radioactive decay. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey Data Release 10 database contains a faint, red object at the position of the OT, which appears slightly extended. This and other lines of evidence suggest that the OT is of extragalactic origin, and this faint object is likely the host galaxy. A sequence of optical spectra obtained with the 9.2 m Hobby-Eberly Telescope between +8 and +45 days after discovery revealed a hot, blue continuum with no visible spectral features. A few weak features that appeared after +30 days probably originated from the underlying host. Fitting synthetic templates to the observed spectrum of the host galaxy revealed a redshift of z = 0.19. At this redshift, the peak magnitude of the OT is close to -22.5, similar to the brightest super-luminous supernovae; however, the lack of identifiable spectral features makes the massive stellar death hypothesis less likely. A more plausible explanation appears to be the tidal disruption of a Sun-like star by the central supermassive black hole. We argue that this transient likely belongs to a class of super-Eddington tidal disruption events.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number12
    JournalAstrophysical Journal
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


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