tidal disruptions are not trivial

Today there was a great, educational visit by James Guillochon (CfA) to the Flatiron Institute. Guillochon led a discussion about tidal disruption events (stars disrupted by black holes) and the transient phenomena they should make. He (perhaps unintentionally?) sowed doubt in my mind that the things currently classified as TDEs are in fact TDEs: There ought to be a huge range of phenomena, depending on the star, the black hole, and orbits. He gave a beautiful answer to my question about seeing the star brighten simply because of the tidal distortion (which is immense: the star stretches out to thousands of AU in length): He predicted that there should be a rapid recombination. That, of course, made me think that we should look for H-alpha or Lyman-alpha flashes! After this discussion, he and I discussed his work assembling all (and really all) published data about supernovae (photometry and spectroscopy), which is a scraping project of immense scope.

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