Multiwavelength flares from tidal disruption and accretion of stars can be used to find and study otherwise dormant massive black holes in galactic nuclei1. Previous well-monitored candidate flares were short-lived, with most emission confined to within ∼1 year2–5. Here we report the discovery of a well-observed super-long (>11 years) luminous X-ray flare from the nuclear region of a dwarf starburst galaxy. After an apparently fast rise within ∼4 months a decade ago, the X-ray luminosity, though showing a weak trend of decay, has been persistently high at around the Eddington limit (when the radiation pressure balances the gravitational force). The X-ray spectra are soft — steeply declining towards higher energies — and can be described with Comptonized emission from an optically thick low-temperature corona, a super-Eddington accretion signature often observed in accreting stellar-mass black holes6. Dramatic spectral softening was also caught in one recent observation, implying either a temporary transition from the super-Eddington accretion state to the standard thermal state, or the presence of a transient highly blueshifted (∼0.36c) warm absorber. All these properties in concert suggest a tidal disruption event with an unusually long super-Eddington accretion phase that has never before been observed.
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D.L. is supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration through Chandra Award Number GO5-16087X issued by the Chandra X-ray Observatory Center, which is operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory for and on behalf of the National Aeronautics Space Administration under contract NAS8-03060. We thank the Swift principal investigator N. Gehrels for approving our ToO request to make several observations of XJ1500+0154.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
Supplementary Notes 1–13, Supplementary Tables 1–2, Supplementary Figures 1–8, Supplementary References. (PDF 646 kb)
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Lin, D., Guillochon, J., Komossa, S. et al. A likely decade-long sustained tidal disruption event. Nat Astron 1, 0033 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-016-0033
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