Presentation #117.12 in the session Time-Domain Astrophysics.
Stars that interact with supermassive black holes (SMBHs) can either be completely or partially destroyed by tides. In a partial tidal disruption event (TDE) the high-density core of the star remains intact, and the low-density, outer envelope of the star is stripped and feeds a luminous accretion episode. The TDE AT2018fyk experienced an extreme dimming event at X-ray (factor of >6000) and UV (factor ∼15) wavelengths ∼500-600 days after discovery. Here we report on the re-emergence of these emission components roughly 1200 days after discovery. We find that the source properties are similar to those of the pre-dimming accretion state, suggesting that the accretion flow was rejuvenated to a similar state. We propose that a repeating partial TDE, where the partially disrupted star is on a ∼1200 day orbit about the SMBH and is periodically stripped of mass during each pericenter passage, powers its unique lightcurve. This scenario provides a plausible explanation for AT2018fyk’s overall properties, including the rapid dimming event and the rebrightening at late times. We also provide testable predictions for the behavior of the accretion flow in the future. This source provides strong evidence of the partial disruption of a star by a SMBH.