Tidal disruption by extreme mass ratio binaries and application to ASASSN-15lh

Eric R. Coughlin, Philip J. Armitage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Tidal disruption events (TDEs) observed in massive galaxies with inferred central black hole masses Mh > 108M are presumptive candidates for TDEs by lower mass secondaries in binary systems. We use hydrodynamic simulations to quantify the characteristics of such TDEs, focusing on extreme mass ratio binaries and mpc separations where the debris stream samples the binary potential. The simulations are initialized with disruption trajectories from three-body integrations of stars with parabolic orbits with respect to the binary centre of mass. The most common outcome is found to be the formation of an unbound debris stream, with either weak late-time accretion or no accretion at all. A substantial fraction of streams remain bound, however, and these commonly yield structured fallback rate curves that exhibit multiple peaks or sharp drops. We apply our results to the superluminous supernova candidate ASASSN-15lh and show that its features, including its anomalous rebrightening at ~100 d after detection, are consistent with the tidal disruption of a star by a supermassive black hole in a binary system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3857-3865
Number of pages9
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Black hole physics
  • Galaxies: Nuclei
  • Hydrodynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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