The Luminosity Function of Tidal Disruption Events from Fallback-powered Emission: Implications for the Black Hole Mass Function

Eric R. Coughlin, Matt Nicholl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Tidal disruption events (TDEs), in which a star is destroyed by the gravitational field of a supermassive black hole (SMBH), are being observed at a high rate owing to the advanced state of survey science. One of the properties of TDEs that is measured with increasing statistical reliability is the TDE luminosity function, d N ̇ TDE / dL , which is the TDE rate per luminosity (i.e., how many TDEs are within a given luminosity range). Here we show that if the luminous emission from a TDE is directly coupled to the rate of return of tidally destroyed debris to the SMBH, then the TDE luminosity function is in good agreement with observations and scales as ∝L −2.5 for high luminosities, provided that the SMBH mass function dN • / dM • —the number of SMBHs (N ) per SMBH mass (M )—is approximately flat in the mass range over which we observe TDEs. We also show that there is a cutoff in the luminosity function at low luminosities that is a result of direct captures, and this cutoff has been tentatively observed. If dN • / dM • is flat, which is in agreement with some observational campaigns, these results suggest that the fallback rate feeds the accretion rate in TDEs. Contrarily, if dN • / d log M • is flat, which has been found theoretically and is suggested by other observational investigations, then the emission from TDEs is likely powered by another mechanism. Future observations and more TDE statistics, provided by the Rubin Observatory/LSST, will provide additional evidence as to the reality of this tension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL22
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Volume948
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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