The luminosity function of active galactic nuclei has been measured down to luminosities ∼ 1042 ergs s-1 in the soft and hard X-rays. Some fraction of this activity is associated with the accretion of the material liberated by the tidal disruption of stars by massive black holes. We estimate the contribution to the X-ray luminosity function from the tidal disruption process. While the contribution depends on a number poorly known parameters, it appears that it can account for the majority of X-ray selected AGN with soft or hard Xray luminosities . 1043 - 1044 ergs s-1. If this is correct, a picture emerges in which a significant portion of the X-ray luminosity function of AGN is comprised of sources powered by tidal-disruption at the faint end, while the sources at the bright end are powered by non-stellar accretion. Black holes with masses . 2×106M⊙ could have acquired most of their present mass by an accretion of tidal debris. In view of the considerable theoretical uncertainty concerning the detailed shape of the light curves of tidal disruption events, we focus on power-law luminosity decay (as identified in candidate tidal disruption events), but we also discuss constant accretion rate models.

Publication Date



This is the pre-print of an article published by the American Astronomical Society. The final, published version is available here: https://doi.org/10.1086/508134

© 2006 The American Astronomical Society

Also archived in: arXiv:astro-ph/0602289 v1 Feb 13 2006

Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works in February 2014.

Document Type


Department, Program, or Center

School of Physics and Astronomy (COS)


RIT – Main Campus