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A Comparison of the X-Ray Emission from Tidal Disruption Events with those of Active Galactic Nuclei




  • One of the main challenges of current tidal disruption events (TDEs) studies is that emission arising from active galactic nucleus (AGN) activity may potentially mimic the expected X-ray emission of a TDE. Here we compare the X-ray properties of TDEs and AGNs to determine a set of characteristics that would allow us to discriminate between flares arising from these two objects. We find that at peak, TDEs are brighter than AGNs found at similar redshifts. However, compared to pre-flare upper limits, highly variable AGNs can produce flares of a similar order of magnitude as those seen from X-ray TDEs. Nevertheless, TDEs decay significantly more monotonically, and their emission exhibits little variation in spectral hardness as a function of time. We also find that X-ray TDEs are less absorbed, and their emission is much softer than the emission detected from AGNs found at similar redshifts. We derive the X-ray luminosity function (LF) for X-ray TDEs using the events from Auchettl et al. Interestingly, our X-ray LF closely matches the theoretically derived LF by Milosavljevic et al., which assumes a higher TDE rate currently estimated from observations. Using our results and the results of Stone & Metzger, we estimate a TDE rate of (0.7--4.7) × 10-4 year-1 per galaxy, higher than current observational estimates. We find that TDEs can contribute significantly to the LF of AGNs for z ≲ 0.4, while there is no evidence that TDEs influence the growth of 106--7 M &sun; BHs. However, BHs BHs. However, BHs 6 M &sun; can grow from TDEs arising from super-Eddington accretion without contributing significantly to the observed AGN LF at z = 0.

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Publication Date

  • 2018



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