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An Unusual Mid-infrared Flare in a Type 2 AGN: An Obscured Turning-on AGN or Tidal Disruption Event?

Yang, Qian and Shen, Yue and Liu, Xin and Wu, Xue-Bing and Jiang, Linhua and Shangguan, Jinyi and Graham, Matthew J. and Yao, Su (2019) An Unusual Mid-infrared Flare in a Type 2 AGN: An Obscured Turning-on AGN or Tidal Disruption Event? Astrophysical Journal, 885 (2). Art. No. 110. ISSN 1538-4357.

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We report the discovery of an exceptional MIR flare in a Type 2 AGN, SDSS J165726.81+234528.1, at z = 0.059. This object brightened by 3 mag in the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) W1 and W2 bands between 2015 and 2017 (and has been fading since 2018), without significant changes (≾0.2 mag) in the optical over the same period of time. Based on the WISE light curves and near-IR imaging, the flare is more significant at longer wavelengths, suggesting an origin of hot dust emission. The estimated black hole mass (~10^(6.5) M⊙) from different methods places its peak bolometric luminosity around the Eddington limit. The high luminosity of the MIR flare and its multiyear timescale suggest that it most likely originated from reprocessed dust radiation in an extended torus surrounding the AGN, instead of from stellar explosions. The MIR color variability is consistent with known changing-look AGN and tidal disruption events (TDEs), but inconsistent with normal supernovae. We suggest that it is a turning-on Type 2 AGN or TDE, where the optical variability is obscured by the dust torus during the transition. This MIR flare event reveals a population of dramatic nuclear transients that are missed in the optical.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription Paper
Shen, Yue0000-0003-1659-7035
Liu, Xin0000-0003-0049-5210
Wu, Xue-Bing0000-0002-7350-6913
Jiang, Linhua0000-0003-4176-6486
Graham, Matthew J.0000-0002-3168-0139
Yao, Su0000-0002-9728-1552
Additional Information:© 2019 The American Astronomical Society. Received 2019 July 29; revised 2019 September 20; accepted 2019 September 24; published 2019 November 6. We thank the referee for comments that improved the manuscript. Q.Y. and Y.S. acknowledge support from NSF grant AST-1715579. X.W., L.J., and S.Y. acknowledge support from the National Key R&D Program of China (2016YFA0400703) and the National Science Foundation of China (11533001, 11721303, 11890693). This publication makes use of data products from the WISE, which is a joint project of the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology, funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. This publication also makes use of data products from NEOWISE, which is a project of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology, funded by the Planetary Science Division of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Funding for the SDSS and SDSS-II has been provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Participating Institutions, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Japanese Monbukagakusho, the Max Planck Society, and the Higher Education Funding Council for England. The SDSS website is The SDSS is managed by the Astrophysical Research Consortium for the Participating Institutions. The Participating Institutions are the American Museum of Natural History, Astrophysical Institute Potsdam, University of Basel, University of Cambridge, Case Western Reserve University, University of Chicago, Drexel University, Fermilab, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Japan Participation Group, Johns Hopkins University, the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics, the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, the Korean Scientist Group, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (LAMOST), Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Max-Planck-Institute for Astronomy (MPIA), the Max-Planck-Institute for Astrophysics (MPA), New Mexico State University, Ohio State University, University of Pittsburgh, University of Portsmouth, Princeton University, the United States Naval Observatory, and the University of Washington. The PS1 and the PS1 public science archives have been made possible through contributions by the Institute for Astronomy, the University of Hawaii, the Pan-STARRS Project Office, the Max-Planck Society and its participating institutes, the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg and the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, The Johns Hopkins University, Durham University, the University of Edinburgh, the Queen's University Belfast, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network Incorporated, the National Central University of Taiwan, the Space Telescope Science Institute, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under grant No. NNX08AR22G issued through the Planetary Science Division of the NASA Science Mission Directorate, the National Science Foundation grant No. AST-1238877, the University of Maryland, Eotvos Lorand University (ELTE), the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The Legacy Surveys consist of three individual and complementary projects: the Dark Energy Camera Legacy Survey (DECaLS; NOAO Proposal ID 2014B-0404; PIs: David Schlegel and Arjun Dey), the Beijing-Arizona Sky Survey (BASS; NOAO Proposal ID 2015A-0801; PIs: Zhou Xu and Xiaohui Fan), and the Mayall z-band Legacy Survey (MzLS; NOAO Proposal ID 2016A-0453; PI: Arjun Dey). DECaLS, BASS, and MzLS together include data obtained, respectively, at the Blanco telescope, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO); the Bok telescope, Steward Observatory, University of Arizona; and the Mayall telescope, Kitt Peak National Observatory, NOAO. The Legacy Surveys project is honored to be permitted to conduct astronomical research on Iolkam Du'ag (Kitt Peak), a mountain with particular significance to the Tohono O'odham Nation. NOAO is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation. The CSS survey is funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under grant No. NNG05GF22G issued through the Science Mission Directorate Near-Earth Objects Observations Program. The CRTS survey is supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation under grants AST-0909182. ZTF: Based on observations obtained with the Samuel Oschin 48 inch Telescope at the Palomar Observatory as part of the Zwicky Transient Facility project. ZTF is supported by the National Science Foundation under grant No. AST-1440341 and a collaboration including Caltech, IPAC, the Weizmann Institute for Science, the Oskar Klein Center at Stockholm University, the University of Maryland, the University of Washington, Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron and Humboldt University, Los Alamos National Laboratories, the TANGO Consortium of Taiwan, the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories. Operations are conducted by COO, IPAC, and UW. This publication makes use of data products from the 2MASS, 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.
Group:Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC), Zwicky Transient Facility
Funding AgencyGrant Number
National Key Basic Research Program of China2016YFA0400703
National Natural Science Foundation of China11533001
National Natural Science Foundation of China11721303
National Natural Science Foundation of China11890693
Alfred P. Sloan FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Participating InstitutionsUNSPECIFIED
Department of Energy (DOE)UNSPECIFIED
Japanese MonbukagakushoUNSPECIFIED
Max Planck SocietyUNSPECIFIED
Higher Education Funding Council for England UNSPECIFIED
University of MarylandUNSPECIFIED
Eotvos Lorand University (ELTE)UNSPECIFIED
Los Alamos National LaboratoryUNSPECIFIED
Gordon and Betty Moore FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC)UNSPECIFIED
Weizmann Institute of ScienceUNSPECIFIED
Stockholm UniversityUNSPECIFIED
University of WashingtonUNSPECIFIED
Deutsches Elektronen-SynchrotronUNSPECIFIED
Humboldt UniversityUNSPECIFIED
University of Wisconsin-MilwaukeeUNSPECIFIED
Lawrence Berkeley National LaboratoryUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Active galactic nuclei; Accretion; Tidal disruption
Issue or Number:2
Classification Code:Unified Astronomy Thesaurus concepts: Active galactic nuclei (16); Accretion (14); Tidal disruption (1696)
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20191106-095134156
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Qian Yang et al 2019 ApJ 885 110
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:99687
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:06 Nov 2019 18:04
Last Modified:06 Nov 2019 18:04

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