Gaia transients in galactic nuclei

Z. Kostrzewa-Rutkowska, P. G. Jonker, S. T. Hodgkin, L. Wyrzykowski, M. Fraser, D. L. Harrison, G. Rixon, A. Yoldas, F. van Leeuwen, A. Delgado, M. van Leeuwen, S. E. Koposov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The high spatial resolution and precise astrometry and photometry of the Gaia mission should make it particularly apt at discovering and resolving transients occurring in, or near, the centres of galaxies. Indeed, some nuclear transients are reported by the Gaia Science Alerts (GSA) team, but not a single confirmed Tidal Disruption Event has been published. In order to explore the sensitivity of GSA, we performed an independent and systematic search for nuclear transients using Gaia observations. Our transient search is driven from an input galaxy catalogue (derived from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Release 12). We present a candidate detection metric which is independent from the existing GSA methodology, to see if Gaia Alerts are biased against the discovery of nuclear transients, and in particular which steps may have an impact. Our technique does require significant manual vetting of candidates, making implementation in the GSA system impractical for daily operations, although it could be run weekly, which for month-to-year long transients would make a scientifically valuable addition. Our search yielded ~480 nuclear transients, 5 of which were alerted and published by GSA. The list of (in some cases ongoing) transients includes candidates for events related to enhanced accretion onto a super-massive black hole and TDEs. An implementation of the detection methodology and criteria used in this paper as an extension of GSA could open up the possibility for Gaia to fulfil the role as a main tool to find transient nuclear activity as predicted in the literature.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Early online date23 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


  • astro-ph.GA
  • astro-ph.IM

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