Constraints on off-axis jets from stellar tidal disruption flares
1 IMAPP, Radboud University, PO Box 9010, 6500 GL Nijmegen, The Netherlands
2 National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Socorro, NM, USA
3 ASTRON, Dwingeloo, The Netherlands
4 Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie Bonn, Germany
Received: 21 September 2012
Accepted: 13 December 2012
Context. Many decades of observations of active galactic nuclei (AGN) and X-ray binaries have shown that relativistic jets are ubiquitous when compact objects accrete. One could therefore anticipate the launch of a jet after a star is disrupted and accreted by a massive black hole. This birth of a relativistic jet may have been observed recently in two stellar tidal disruption flares (TDFs), which were discovered in gamma-rays by Swift. Yet no transient radio emission has been detected from the tens of TDF candidates that were discovered at optical to soft X-ray frequencies. Because the sample that was followed-up at radio frequencies is small, the non-detections can be explained by Doppler boosting, which reduces the jet flux for off-axis observers. And since the existing follow-up observation are mostly within ~10 months of the discovery, the non-detections can also be due to a delay of the radio emission with respect to the time of disruption.
Aims. We wish to test the conjecture that all TDFs launch jets.
Methods. We present 5 GHz follow-up observations with the Jansky VLA of seven known TDFs, a significant increase of the number of radio observations of these events. To avoid missing delayed jet emission, our observations probe 1−8 years since the estimated time of disruption.
Results. None of the sources are detected, with very deep upper limits at the 10 micro Jansky level. These observations rule out the hypothesis that these TDFs launched jets similar to radio-loud quasars. We also constrain the possibility that the flares hosted a jet identical to Sw 1644+57, the first and best-sampled relativistic TDF.
Conclusions. We thus obtain evidence for a dichotomy in the stellar tidal disruption population, implying that the jet launching mechanism is sensitive to the parameters of the disruption.
Key words: accretion, accretion disks / radiation mechanisms: non-thermal / galaxies: jets / radio continuum: general
© ESO, 2013