Rochester Institute of Technology

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Radiative interaction between the relativistic jet and optically thick envelope in tidal disruption events
By Wenbin Lu, Julian Krolik, Patrick Crumley, Pawan Kumar
Published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 471, 1141 (Tuesday, July 4, 2017)


Reverberation observations yielding a lag spectrum have uncovered an Fe K α fluorescence line in the tidal disruption event (TDE) Swift J1644+57. The discovery paper used the lag spectrum to argue that the source of the X-ray continuum was located very close to the black hole (∼30 gravitational radii) and moved subrelativistically. We reanalyse the lag spectrum, pointing out that dilution effects cause it to indicate a geometric scale an order of magnitude larger than inferred by Kara et al. If the X-ray continuum is produced by a relativistic jet, as suggested by the rapid variability, high luminosity and hard spectrum, this larger scale predicts an Fe ionization state consistent with efficient K α photon production. Moreover, the momentum of the jet X-rays impinging on the surrounding accretion flow on this large scale accelerates a layer of gas to speeds ∼0.1–0.2c, consistent with the blueshifted line profile. Implications of our results on the global picture of jetted TDEs are discussed. A power-law γ/X-ray spectrum may be produced by external ultraviolet (UV)–optical photons being repetitively inverse-Compton scattered by cold electrons in the jet, although our model for the K α reverberation does not depend on the jet radiation mechanism (magnetic reconnection in a Poynting jet is still a viable mechanism). The non-relativistic wind driven by jet radiation may explain the late-time radio rebrightening in Swift J1644+57. This energy injection may also cause the thermal UV–optical emission from jetted TDEs to be systematically brighter than in non-jetted ones.