The Tidal Disruption Event AT 2018hyz I: Double-peaked emission lines and a flat Balmer decrement

P. Short*, M. Nicholl, A. Lawrence, S. Gomez, I. Arcavi, T. Wevers, G. Leloudas, S. Schulze, J. P. Anderson, E. Berger, P. K. Blanchard, J. Burke, P. Charalampopoulos, R. Chornock, L. Galbany, M. Gromadzki, L. J. Herzog, D. Hiramatsu, Keith Horne, G. HosseinzadehD. Andrew Howell, N. Ihanec, C. Inserra, E. Kankare, K. Maguire, C. McCully, T. E. Müller Bravo, F. Onori, J. Sollerman, D. R. Young

*Corresponding author for this work

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We present results from spectroscopic observations of AT 2018hyz, a transient discovered by the ASAS-SN survey at an absolute magnitude of MV∼−20.2 mag, in the nucleus of a quiescent galaxy with strong Balmer absorption lines. AT 2018hyz shows a blue spectral continuum and broad emission lines, consistent with previous TDE candidates. Modelling of the light curve (presented in our companion paper, Gomez et al. 2020), indicates AT 2018hyz originated from the partial disruption of a low mass star. High cadence follow-up spectra show broad Balmer lines and He I in early spectra, with He II making an appearance after ∼70−100 days. The Balmer lines evolve from a smooth broad profile, through a boxy, asymmetric double-peaked phase consistent with accretion disk emission, and back to smooth at late times. The Balmer lines are unlike typical AGN in that they show a flat Balmer decrement (Hα/Hβ∼1.5), suggesting the lines are collisionally excited rather than being produced via photo-ionisation. The flat Balmer decrement together with the complex profiles suggest that the emission lines originate in a disk chromosphere, analogous to those seen in cataclysmic variables. The low optical depth of material from the partial disruption may be what allows us to observe these double-peaked, collisionally excited lines. The late appearance of He II may be due to an expanding photosphere or outflow, or late-time shocks in debris collisions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)4119–4133
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Black hole physics
  • Galaxies: active
  • Galaxies: individual: AT 2018hyz

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