Observing Lense-Thirring precession in tidal disruption flares

Nicholas Stone*, Abraham Loeb

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


When a star is tidally disrupted by a supermassive black hole (SMBH), the streams of liberated gas form an accretion disk after their return to pericenter. We demonstrate that Lense-Thirring precession in the spacetime around a rotating SMBH can produce significant time evolution of the disk angular momentum vector, due to both the periodic precession of the disk and the nonperiodic, differential precession of the bound debris streams. Jet precession and periodic modulation of disk luminosity are possible consequences. The persistence of the jetted x-ray emission in the Swift J164449.3+573451 flare suggests that the jet axis was aligned with the spin axis of the SMBH during this event.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number061302
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number6
StatePublished - 6 Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes


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