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The SPIRITS sample of Luminous Infrared Transients: Uncovering Hidden Supernovae and Dusty Stellar Outbursts in Nearby Galaxies

Jencson, Jacob E. and Kasliwal, Mansi M. and Adams, Scott M. and Bond, Howard E. and De, Kishalay and Johansson, Joel and Karambelkar, Viraj and Lau, Ryan M. and Tinyanont, Samaporn and Ryder, Stuart D. and Cody, Ann Marie and Masci, Frank J. and Bally, John and Blagorodnova, Nadejda and Castellón, Sergio and Fremling, Christoffer and Gehrz, Robert D. and Helou, George and Kilpatrick, Charles D. and Milne, Peter A. and Morrell, Nidia and Perley, Daniel A. and Phillips, M. M. and Smith, Nathan and Van Dyk, Schuyler D. and Williams, Robert E. (2019) The SPIRITS sample of Luminous Infrared Transients: Uncovering Hidden Supernovae and Dusty Stellar Outbursts in Nearby Galaxies. Astrophysical Journal, 886 (1). Art. No. 40. ISSN 1538-4357.

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We present a systematic study of the most luminous (M IR [Vega magnitudes] brighter than −14) infrared (IR) transients discovered by the SPitzer InfraRed Intensive Transients Survey (SPIRITS) between 2014 and 2018 in nearby galaxies (D < 35 Mpc). The sample consists of nine events that span peak IR luminosities of M_([4.5],peak) between −14 and −18.2, show IR colors between 0.2 < ([3.6]–[4.5]) < 3.0, and fade on timescales between 55 days < t_(fade) < 480 days. The two reddest events (A V > 12) show multiple, luminous IR outbursts over several years and have directly detected, massive progenitors in archival imaging. With analyses of extensive, multiwavelength follow-up, we suggest the following possible classifications: five obscured core-collapse supernovae (CCSNe), two erupting massive stars, one luminous red nova, and one intermediate-luminosity red transient. We define a control sample of all optically discovered transients recovered in SPIRITS galaxies and satisfying the same selection criteria. The control sample consists of eight CCSNe and one Type Iax SN. We find that 7 of the 13 CCSNe in the SPIRITS sample have lower bounds on their extinction of 2 < A V < 8. We estimate a nominal fraction of CCSNe in nearby galaxies that are missed by optical surveys as high as 38.5^(+26.0)_(-21.9)% (90% confidence). This study suggests that a significant fraction of CCSNe may be heavily obscured by dust and therefore undercounted in the census of nearby CCSNe from optical searches.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Paper
Jencson, Jacob E.0000-0001-5754-4007
Kasliwal, Mansi M.0000-0002-5619-4938
Adams, Scott M.0000-0001-5855-5939
Bond, Howard E.0000-0003-1377-7145
De, Kishalay0000-0002-8989-0542
Johansson, Joel0000-0001-5975-290X
Tinyanont, Samaporn0000-0002-1481-4676
Ryder, Stuart D.0000-0003-4501-8100
Cody, Ann Marie0000-0002-3656-6706
Masci, Frank J.0000-0002-8532-9395
Bally, John0000-0001-8135-6612
Blagorodnova, Nadejda0000-0003-0901-1606
Fremling, Christoffer0000-0002-4223-103X
Gehrz, Robert D.0000-0003-1319-4089
Helou, George0000-0003-3367-3415
Kilpatrick, Charles D.0000-0002-5740-7747
Milne, Peter A.0000-0002-0370-157X
Morrell, Nidia0000-0003-2535-3091
Perley, Daniel A.0000-0001-8472-1996
Phillips, M. M.0000-0003-2734-0796
Van Dyk, Schuyler D.0000-0001-9038-9950
Additional Information:© 2019 The American Astronomical Society. Received 2019 February 27; revised 2019 September 29; accepted 2019 September 30; published 2019 November 18. This paper includes data gathered with the 6.5 m Magellan Telescopes located at Las Campanas Observatory, Chile. We thank the anonymous referee for their thorough read of the paper and helpful comments. We thank C. Contreras and the staff of Las Campanas Observatory for help with conducting observations and data reduction. We thank E. Hsiao for helpful commentary and advice in the analysis and discussion of the spectra. We thank K. Mooley, D. Dong, M. Anderson, M. Eastwood, and A. Horesh for helpful advice and assistance with VLA data reduction. We thank S. Mattila and T. Reynolds for valuable discussions in revising this work. This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship under grant No. DGE-1144469. H.E.B. acknowledges that support for HST program Nos. GO-13935, GO-14258, and AR-15005 was provided by NASA through grants from the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Incorporated, under NASA contract NAS5-26555. R.D.G. was supported by NASA and the United States Air Force. This work is part of the research program VENI, with project No. 016.192.277, which is (partly) financed by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). This work is based in part on observations made with the Spitzer Space Telescope, which is operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with NASA. This work is based in part on observations with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope obtained at the Space Telescope Science Institute and from the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes at STScI, which are operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under NASA contract NAS5-26555. We acknowledge the use of public data from the Swift data archive. Some of the data presented herein were obtained at the W. M. Keck Observatory, which is operated as a scientific partnership among the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Observatory was made possible by the generous financial support of the W. M. Keck Foundation. The authors wish to recognize and acknowledge the very significant cultural role and reverence that the summit of Maunakea has always had within the indigenous Hawaiian community. We are most fortunate to have the opportunity to conduct observations from this mountain. Part of the optical and near-infrared photometric data included in this paper were obtained by the Carnegie Supernova Project through the support of NSF grant AST-1008343. Based on observations obtained at the Gemini Observatory acquired through the Gemini Observatory Archive and processed using the Gemini IRAF package, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under a cooperative agreement with the NSF on behalf of the Gemini partnership: the National Science Foundation (United States), National Research Council (Canada), CONICYT (Chile), Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación Productiva (Argentina), Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação (Brazil), and Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (Republic of Korea). UKIRT is owned by the University of Hawaii (UH) and operated by the UH Institute for Astronomy; operations are enabled through the cooperation of the East Asian Observatory. When the data reported here were acquired, UKIRT was supported by NASA and operated under an agreement among the University of Hawaii, the University of Arizona, and Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center; operations were enabled through the cooperation of the East Asian Observatory. Some of the data used in this paper were acquired with the RATIR instrument, funded by the University of California and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and the 1.5 m Harold L. Johnson telescope at the Observatorio Astronómico Nacional on the Sierra de San Pedro Mártir, operated and maintained by the Observatorio Astronómico Nacional and the Instituto de Astronomía of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. We acknowledge the contribution of Leonid Georgiev and Neil Gehrels to the development of RATIR. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc. The Australia Telescope Compact Array is part of the Australia Telescope National Facility, which is funded by the Australian Government for operation as a National Facility managed by CSIRO. This paper includes archived data obtained through the Australia Telescope Online Archive ( The Digitized Sky Surveys were produced at the Space Telescope Science Institute under U.S. Government grant NAG W-2166. The images of these surveys are based on photographic data obtained using the Oschin Schmidt Telescope on Palomar Mountain and the UK Schmidt Telescope. The plates were processed into the present compressed digital form with the permission of these institutions. The Second Palomar Observatory Sky Survey (POSS-II) was made by the California Institute of Technology with funds from the National Science Foundation, the National Geographic Society, the Sloan Foundation, the Samuel Oschin Foundation, and the Eastman Kodak Corporation. The Oschin Schmidt Telescope is operated by the California Institute of Technology and Palomar Observatory. The UK Schmidt Telescope was operated by the Royal Observatory Edinburgh, with funding from the UK Science and Engineering Research Council (later the UK Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council), until 1988 June, and thereafter by the Anglo-Australian Observatory. The blue plates of the southern Sky Atlas and its Equatorial Extension (together known as the SERC-J), as well as the Equatorial Red (ER) and the Second Epoch [red] Survey (SES), were all taken with the UK Schmidt. Supplemental funding for sky-survey work at the STScI is provided by the European Southern Observatory. Funding for SDSS-III has been provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Participating Institutions, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science. The SDSS-III website is SDSS-III is managed by the Astrophysical Research Consortium for the Participating Institutions of the SDSS-III Collaboration, including the University of Arizona, the Brazilian Participation Group, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Florida, the French Participation Group, the German Participation Group, Harvard University, the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, the Michigan State/Notre Dame/JINA Participation Group, Johns Hopkins University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, New Mexico State University, New York University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Portsmouth, Princeton University, the Spanish Participation Group, University of Tokyo, University of Utah, Vanderbilt University, University of Virginia, University of Washington, and Yale University. This publication makes use of data products from the Two Micron All Sky Survey, which is a joint project of the University of Massachusetts and the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center/California Institute of Technology, funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Science Foundation. Facilities: Spitzer (IRAC) - , HST (WFPC2 - , WFC3) - , Swift (UVOT) - , PO:1.5 m (CCD) - , PO:1.2 m - , Swope (CCD) - , Du Pont (RetroCam) - , Magellan:Baade (FourStar - , FIRE) - , Keck:I (LRIS - , MOSFIRE) - , Keck:II (DEIMOS - , NIRES) - , Hale (WIRC) - , Gemini:Gillett (GNIRS) - , Gemini:South (FLAMINGOS-2) - , UKIRT (WFCAM) - , OANSPM:HJT (RATIR) - , EVLA - , ATCA - , AMI - . Software: DOLPHOT (Dolphin 2000, 2016), DAOPHOT/ALLSTAR package (Stetson 1987), IRAF (Tody 1986, 1993), Gemini IRAF package (, LPipe (Perley 2019,, MOSFIRE Data Reduction Pipeline (, Spextool (Cushing et al. 2004), CASA (McMullin et al. 2007).
Group:Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
NSF Graduate Research FellowshipDGE-1144469
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO)016.192.277
W. M. Keck FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA)UNSPECIFIED
Gemini PartnershipUNSPECIFIED
National Geographic SocietyUNSPECIFIED
Alfred P. Sloan FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Samuel Oschin FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Eastman Kodak CorporationUNSPECIFIED
Department of Energy (DOE)UNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:dust, extinction – infrared: general – stars: massive – supernovae: general – supernovae: individual (SPIRITS 14buu, SPIRITS 15c, SPIRITS 15ud, SPIRITS 16ix, SPIRITS 16tn, SPIRITS 17lb)
Issue or Number:1
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20190617-152842446
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Jacob E. Jencson et al 2019 ApJ 886 40
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:96484
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:17 Jun 2019 22:47
Last Modified:20 Nov 2019 18:09

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