A unique UV flare in the optical light curve of the quasar J004457.9+412344
1 Thüringer Landessternwarte Tautenburg, Germany
2 Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik Garching, Germany
3 Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie Heidelberg, Germany
4 University of Washington, Seattle, USA
5 University of Athens, Greece
6 University of Roma La Sapienza, Italy
7 Christian-Albrechts-Universität Kiel, Germany
8 University Bern, Switzerland
9 Sternwarte Sonneberg, Germany
10 University Leipzig, Germany
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We found that the nova candidate J004457.9+412344 is a radio-quiet quasar at z ∼ 2. Its optical long-term light curve, covering more than half a century, shows quasar typical flux variations superimposed by a spectacular single flare lasting more than one year (observer frame). We could not find comparable light curves among the several thousand catalogued radio-quiet quasars in the stripe 82 of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The decreasing part of the flare light curve roughly follows a power law t−5/3. The quasar spectrum, the total energy of the flare, and the decline of the light curve are consistent with the tidal disruption of a ∼10 Mʘ giant star by a supermassive black hole of a few 108 Mʘ. We argue that the alternative explanation by gravitational microlensing is less likely, though it cannot be definitely excluded.
© Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2012
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