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

Kankare, E. and Kotak, R. and Mattila, S. and Lundqvist, P. and Ward, M. J. and Fraser, M. and Lawrence, A. and Smartt, S. J. and Meikle, W. P. S. and Bruce, A. and Harmanen, J. and Hutton, S. J. and Inserra, C. and Kangas, T. and Pastorello, A. and Reynolds, T. and Romero-Cañizales, C. and Smith, K. W. and Valenti, S. and Chambers, K. C. and Hodapp, K. W. and Huber, M. E. and Kaiser, N. and Kudritzki, R.-P. and Magnier, E. A. and Tonry, J. L. and Wainscoat, R. J. and Waters, C. (2017) 'A population of highly energetic transient events in the centres of active galaxies.', Nature astronomy., 1 (12). pp. 865-871.


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 debated1,2,3. Here we report the discovery of the most energetic of these to date: PS1-10adi, with a total radiated energy of ~2.3 × 1052 erg. The slow evolution of its light curve and persistently narrow spectral lines over ∼ 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.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Date accepted:25 September 2017
Date deposited:28 August 2018
Date of first online publication:13 November 2017
Date first made open access:28 August 2018

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