An enhanced rate of tidal disruptions in the centrally overdense E+A galaxy NGC 3156

Nicholas C. Stone, Sjoert Van Velzen

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Time domain optical surveys have discovered roughly a dozen candidate stellar tidal disruption flares in the last five years, and future surveys like the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope will likely find hundreds to thousands more. These tidal disruption events (TDEs) present an interesting puzzle: a majority of the current TDE sample is hosted by rare post-starburst galaxies, and tens of percents of the galaxies are hosted in even rarer E+A galaxies, which make up of all galaxies in the local universe. E+As are therefore overrepresented among TDE hosts by 1-2 orders of magnitude, a discrepancy unlikely to be accounted for by selection effects. We analyze Hubble Space Telescope photometry of one of the nearest E+A galaxies, NGC 3156, to estimate the rate of stellar tidal disruption produced as two-body relaxation diffuses stars onto orbits in the loss cone of the central supermassive black hole. The rate of TDEs produced by two-body relaxation in NGC 3156 is large when compared to other galaxies with similar black hole mass: ṄTDE ∼ 1 × 10-3yr-1. This suggests that the preference of TDEs for E+A hosts may be due to central stellar overdensities produced in recent starbursts.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numberL14
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.


  • galaxies: nuclei
  • galaxies: starburst
  • quasars: supermassive black holes


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