A population of highly energetic transient events in the centres of active galaxies

E. Kankare*, R. Kotak, S. Mattila, P. Lundqvist, M. J. Ward, M. Fraser, Andy Lawrence, S. J. Smartt, W. P. S. Meikle, Alastair Bruce, J. Harmanen, S. J. Hutton, C. Inserra, T. Kangas, A. Pastorello, T. Reynolds, C. Romero-Canizales, K. W. Smith, S. Valenti, K. C. ChambersK. W. Hodapp, M. E. Huber, N. Kaiser, R. -P. Kudritzki, E. A. Magnier, J. L. Tonry, Richard J. Wainscoat, C M Waters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Recent all-sky surveys have led to the discovery of new types of transients. These include stars disrupted by the central supermassive black hole, and supernovae that are 10-100 times more energetic than typical ones. However, the nature of even more energetic transients that apparently occur in the innermost regions of their host galaxies is hotly debated1-3. Here we report the discovery of the most energetic of these to date: PS1-10adi, with a total radiated energy of similar to 2.3 x 10(52) erg. The slow evolution of its light curve and persistently narrow spectral lines over similar to 3 yr are inconsistent with known types of recurring black hole variability. The observed properties imply powering by shock interaction between expanding material and large quantities of surrounding dense matter. Plausible sources of this expanding material are a star that has been tidally disrupted by the central black hole, or a supernova. Both could satisfy the energy budget. For the former, we would be forced to invoke a new and hitherto unseen variant of a tidally disrupted star, while a supernova origin relies principally on environmental effects resulting from its nuclear location. Remarkably, we also discover that PS1-10adi is not an isolated case. We therefore surmise that this new population of transients has previously been overlooked due to incorrect association with underlying central black hole activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)865-871
Number of pages7
JournalNature Astronomy
Volume1
Issue number12
Early online date13 Nov 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017

Keywords

  • DIGITAL SKY SURVEY
  • BLACK-HOLE MASSES
  • LUMINOUS SUPERNOVA
  • EMISSION-LINE
  • TIDAL DISRUPTION
  • GALACTIC NUCLEI
  • II SUPERNOVAE
  • DATA RELEASE
  • SPECTRA
  • CLASSIFICATION

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