During a tidal disruption event, a star is torn apart by the tidal forces of a supermassive black hole, with about 50% of the star’s mass eventually accreted by the black hole. The resulting flare can, in extreme cases of super-Eddington mass accretion, result in a relativistic jet1,2,3,4. While tidal disruption events have been theoretically proposed as sources of high-energy cosmic rays5,6 and neutrinos7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14, stacking searches indicate that their contribution to the diffuse extragalactic neutrino flux is very low15. However, a recent association of a track-like astrophysical neutrino (IceCube-191001A16) with a tidal disruption event (AT2019dsg17) indicates that some tidal disruption events can accelerate cosmic rays to petaelectronvolt energies. Here we introduce a phenomenological concordance scenario with a relativistic jet to explain this association: an expanding cocoon progressively obscures the X-rays emitted by the accretion disk, while at the same time providing a sufficiently intense external target of backscattered X-rays for the production of neutrinos via proton–photon interactions. We also reproduce the delay (relative to the peak) of the neutrino emission by scaling the production radius with the black-body radius. Our energetics and assumptions for the jet and the cocoon are compatible with expectations from numerical simulations of tidal disruption events.
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The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available in the supplementary information or from the corresponding author upon reasonable request. Source data are provided with this paper.
The codes that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.
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We thank A. Franckowiak, M. Kowalski, R. Stein, A. Taylor and S. van Velzen for useful discussions. This work has been supported by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Unions Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant number 646623), and by the US National Science Foundation grant number PHY-1613708.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Astronomy thanks Francis Halzen, Kikitake Hayasaki and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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Source Data Fig. 3
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Winter, W., Lunardini, C. A concordance scenario for the observed neutrino from a tidal disruption event. Nat Astron 5, 472–477 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-021-01305-3
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