Long-term spectral evolution of tidal disruption candidates selected by strong coronal lines

Chen Wei Yang, Ting Gui Wang, Gary Ferland, Weimin Yuan, Hong Yan Zhou, Peng Jiang

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48 Scopus citations


We present results of follow-up optical spectroscopic Multi-Mirror Telescope (MMT) observations of seven rare, extreme coronal line-emitting galaxies reported by Wang et al. Large variations in coronal lines are found in four objects, making them strong candidates for tidal disruption events (TDEs). For the four TDE candidates, all the coronal lines with ionization states higher than [Fe VII] disappear within 5-9 yr. The [Fe VII] line faded by a factor of about five in one object (J0952+2143) within 4 yr, whereas the line emerged in another two objects that previously did not show the line. A strong increment in the [O III] flux is observed, shifting the line ratios toward the loci of active galactic nuclei on the BPT diagram. Surprisingly, we detect a non-canonical [O III] λ5007/[O III] λ4959 ratio of ≃ 2 in two objects, indicating a large column density of O2 + and thus probably optically thick gas. This result also requires a very large ionization parameter and a relatively soft ionizing spectral energy distribution (e.g., a blackbody with T < 5 × 104 K). Our observations can be explained as the echoing of a strong ultraviolet to soft X-ray flare caused by TDEs on molecular clouds in the inner parsecs of the galactic nuclei. Reanalyzing the Sloan Digital Sky Survey spectra reveals double-peaked or strongly blue-shouldered broad lines in three of the objects, which disappeared in the MMT spectra of two objects and faded by a factor of 10 in 8 yr in the remaining object with a decrease in both the line width and centroid offset. We interpret these broad lines as arising from decelerating biconical outflows. Our results demonstrate that the signatures of echoing can persist for as long as 10 yr and can be used to probe the gas environment in quiescent galactic nuclei.

Original languageEnglish
Article number46
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2013


  • black hole physics
  • galaxies: nuclei
  • line: formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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