Evolution and precession of accretion disk in tidal disruption events
Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto, Canada
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In a supermassive black hole (BH) tidal disruption event (TDE), the tidally disrupted star feeds the BH via an accretion disk. Most often it is assumed that the accretion rate history, hence the emission light curve, tracks the rate at which new debris mass falls back onto the disk, notably the t−5/3 power law. But this is not the case when the disk evolution due to viscous spreading - the driving force for accretion - is carefully considered. We construct a simple analytical model that comprehensively describes the accretion rate history across 4 different phases of the disk evolution, in the presence of mass fallback and disk wind loss. Accretion rate evolves differently in those phases which are governed by how the disk heat energy is carried away, early on by advection and later by radiation. The accretion rate can decline as steeply as t−5/3 only if copious disk wind loss is present during the early advection-cooled phase. Later, the accretion rate history is t−8/7 or shallower. These have great implications on the TDE flare light curve. A TDE accretion disk is most likely misaligned with the equatorial plane of the spinning BH. Moreover, in the TDE the accretion rate is super- or near-Eddington thus the disk is geometrically thick, for which case the BH’s frame dragging effect may cause the disk precess as a solid body, which may manifest itself as quasi-periodic signal in the TDE light curve. Our disk evolution model predicts the disk precession period increases with time, typically as ∝ t. The results are applied to the recently jetted TDE flare Swift transient J1644 + 57 which shows numerous, quasi-periodic dips in its long-term X-ray light curve. As the current TDE sample increases, the identification of the disk precession signature provides a unique way of measuring BH spin and studying BH accretion physics.
© Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2012
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