On 2011 March 28, the Swift Burst Alert Telescope triggered on an object that had no analog in over six years of Swift operations. Follow-up observations by the Swift X-ray Telescope (XRT) found a new, bright X-ray source covering three orders of magnitude in flux over the first few days, that was much more persistent (and variable) than gamma-ray burst afterglows. Ground-based spectroscopy found a redshift of 0.35, implying extremely high luminosity, with integrated isotropic-equivalent energy output in the X-ray band alone exceeding 1053 erg in the first two weeks after discovery. Strong evidence for a collimated outflow or beamed emission was found. The observational properties of this object are unlike anything ever before observed. We interpret these unique properties as the result of emission from a relativistic jet produced in the aftermath of the tidal disruption of a main sequence star by a massive black hole (BH) in the center of the host galaxy. The source decayed slowly as the stellar remnants were accreted onto the BH, before abruptly shutting off. Here we present the definitive XRT team light curve for Swift J164449.3+573451 and discuss its implications. We show that the unabsorbed flux decayed roughly as a power law up to 2012 August 17. The steep turnoff of an order of magnitude in 24 hr seems to be consistent with the shutdown of the jet as the accretion disk transitioned from a thick disk to a thin disk. Swift continues to monitor this source in case the jet reactivates.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science