Tidal disruption of a star by a black hole: Observational signature

Tamara Bogdanović, Michael Eracleous, Suvrath Mahadevan, Steinn Sigurdsson, Pablo Laguna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


We have modeled the time-variable profiles of the Hα emission line from the nonaxisymmetric disk and debris tail created in the tidal disruption of a solar-type star by a 106 M black hole. Two tidal disruption events were simulated using a three-dimensional relativistic smoothed particle hydrodynamics code to describe the early evolution of the debris during the first 50-90 days. We have calculated the physical conditions and radiative processes in the debris using the photoionization code CLOUDY. We model the emission-line profiles in the period immediately after the accretion rate onto the black hole became significant. We find that the line profiles at these very early stages of the evolution of the postdisruption debris do not resemble the double-peaked profiles expected from a rotating disk, since the debris has not yet settled into such a stable structure. As a result of the uneven distribution of the debris and the existence of a "tidal tail" (the stream of returning debris), the line profiles depend sensitively on the orientation of the tail relative to the line of sight. Moreover, the predicted line profiles vary on fairly short timescales (of the order of hours to days). Given the accretion rate onto the black hole, we also model the Hα light curve from the debris and the evolution of the Hα line profiles in time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)707-721
Number of pages15
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 I
StatePublished - Aug 1 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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