Prompt tidal disruption of stars as an electromagnetic signature of supermassive black hole coalescence

Nicholas Stone*, Abraham Loeb

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations

Abstract

A precise electromagnetic measurement of the sky coordinates and redshift of a coalescing black hole binary holds the key for using its gravitational wave (GW) signal to constrain cosmological parameters and to test general relativity. Here we show that the merger of ∼ 106-7 M black holes is generically followed by electromagnetic flares from tidally disrupted stars. The sudden recoil imparted to the merged black hole by GW emission promptly fills its loss cone and results in a tidal disruption rate of stars as high as ∼ 0.1 yr-1. The prompt disruption of a single star within a galaxy provides a unique electromagnetic flag of a recent black hole coalescence event, and sequential disruptions could be used on their own to calibrate the expected rate of GW sources for pulsar timing arrays or the proposed Laser Interferometer Space Antenna.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)75-80
Number of pages6
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Volume412
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Black hole physics
  • Galaxies: nuclei
  • Gravitational waves

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