Time variable broad-line emission in NGC 4203: evidence for stellar contrails.
Abstract (from CDS):
Dual epoch spectroscopy of the lenticular galaxy, NGC 4203, obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope has revealed that the double-peaked component of the broad Hα emission line is time variable, increasing by a factor of 2.2 in brightness between 1999 and 2010. Modeling the gas distribution responsible for the double-peaked profiles indicates that a ring is a more appropriate description than a disk and most likely represents the contrail of a red supergiant star that is being tidally disrupted at a distance of ∼1500 AU from the central black hole. There is also a bright core of broad Hα line emission that is not time variable and identified with a large-scale inflow from an outer radius of ∼1 pc. If the gas number density is ≥ 106/cm3, as suggested by the absence of similarly broad [O I] and [O III] emission lines, then the steady state inflow rate is ∼ 2x10–2 M☉/yr, which exceeds the inflow requirement to explain the X-ray luminosity in terms of radiatively inefficient accretion by a factor of ∼6. The central active galactic nucleus (AGN) is unable to sustain ionization of the broad-line region; the discrepancy is particularly acute in 2010 when the broad Hα emission line is dominated by the contrail of the infalling supergiant star. However, ram pressure shock ionization produced by the interaction of the infalling supergiant with the ambient interstellar medium may help alleviate the ionizing deficit by generating a mechanical source of ionization supplementing the photoionization provided by the AGN.