Abstract Using the AdS/CFT correspondence in the supergravity approximation, we compute the energy density radiated by a heavy quark undergoing some arbitrary motion in the vacuum of the strongly coupled N = 4 supersymmetric Yang–Mills theory. We find that this energy is fully generated via backreaction from the near-boundary endpoint of the dual string attached to the heavy quark. Because of that, the energy distribution shows the same space–time localization as the classical radiation that would be produced by the heavy quark at weak coupling. We believe that this is an artifact of the supergravity approximation, which will be corrected after including string fluctuations. We discuss some other features of the result, like its anisotropy and the presence of regions with negative energy density. For the case where the quark trajectory is bounded, we also compute the radiated power, by integrating the energy density over the surface of a sphere at infinity. For sufficiently large times, we find agreement with a previous calculation by Mikhailov [ hep-th/0305196].