Radio observations of the tidal disruption event AT2020opy: A luminous non-relativistic outflow encountering a dense circumnuclear medium

A. J. Goodwin*, J. C.A. Miller-Jones, S. Van Velzen, M. Bietenholz, J. Greenland, B. Cenko, S. Gezari, A. Horesh, G. R. Sivakoff, L. Yan, W. Yu, X. Zhang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Tidal disruption events (TDEs) occur when a star passes too close to a supermassive black hole and is destroyed by tidal gravitational forces. Radio observations of TDEs trace synchrotron emission from outflowing material that may be ejected from the inner regions of the accretion flow around the supermassive black hole or by the tidal debris stream. Radio detections of TDEs are rare, but provide crucial information about the launching of jets and outflows from supermassive black holes and the circumnuclear environment in galaxies. Here, we present the radio detection of the TDE AT2020opy, including three epochs of radio observations taken with the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array, MeerKAT, and upgraded Giant Metrewave Radio telescope. AT2020opy is the most distant thermal TDE with radio emission reported to date, and from modelling the evolving synchrotron spectra we deduce that the host galaxy has a more dense circumnuclear medium than other thermal TDEs detected in the radio band. Based on an equipartition analysis of the synchrotron spectral properties of the event, we conclude that the radio-emitting outflow was likely launched approximately at the time of, or just after, the initial optical flare. We find no evidence for relativistic motion of the outflow. The high luminosity of this event supports that a dense circumnuclear medium of the host galaxy produces brighter radio emission that rises to a peak more quickly than in galaxies with lower central densities.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)847-854
Number of pages8
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank K. Alexander, N. Blagorodnova, P. Woudt, M. Bottcher, R. Fender, J. Bright, and S. Kulkarni for their contributions to the observing proposals that were instrumental to this work. This w ork w as supported by the Australian go v ernment through the Australian Research Council's Disco v ery Projects funding scheme (DP200102471). AH is grateful for the support by the I-Core Program of the Planning and Budgeting Committee and the Israel Science Foundation, and support by ISF grant 647/18. AH is grateful for sup- port by the Zelman Cowen Academic Initiatives. GRS is supported by NSERC Disco v ery Grants RGPIN-2016-06569 and RGPIN-2021- 0400. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc. The MeerKAT telescope is operated by the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory, which is a facility of the National Research Foundation, an agency of the Department of Science and Innovation. We thank the staff of the GMRT that made these observations possible. GMRT is run by the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s).


  • radio continuum: transients
  • transients: tidal disruption events


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