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Published July 10, 2011 | Submitted + Published
Journal Article Open

The Discovery and Nature of the Optical Transient CSS100217:102913+404220


We report on the discovery and observations of the extremely luminous optical transient CSS100217:102913+404220 (CSS100217 hereafter). Spectroscopic observations showed that this transient was coincident with a galaxy at redshift z = 0.147 and reached an apparent magnitude of V ~ 16.3. After correcting for foreground Galactic extinction we determine the absolute magnitude to be M_V = –22.7 approximately 45 days after maximum light. Over a period of 287 rest-frame days, this event had an integrated bolometric luminosity of 1.3 × 10^(52) erg based on time-averaged bolometric corrections of ~15 from V- and R-band observations. Analysis of the pre-outburst Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) spectrum of the source shows features consistent with a narrow-line Seyfert 1 galaxy. High-resolution Hubble Space Telescope and Keck follow-up observations show that the event occurred within 150 pc of the nucleus of the galaxy, suggesting a possible link to the active nuclear region. However, the rapid outburst along with photometric and spectroscopic evolution are much more consistent with a luminous supernova. Line diagnostics suggest that the host galaxy is undergoing significant star formation. We use extensive follow-up of the event along with archival Catalina Sky Survey NEO search and SDSS data to investigate the three most likely sources of such an event: (1) an extremely luminous supernova, (2) the tidal disruption of a star by the massive nuclear black hole, and (3) variability of the central active galactic nucleus (AGN). We find that CSS100217 was likely an extremely luminous Type IIn supernova and occurred within the range of the narrow-line region of an AGN. We discuss how similar events may have been missed in past supernova surveys because of confusion with AGN activity.

Additional Information

© 2011 The American Astronomical Society. Received 2010 December 17; accepted 2011 April 26; published 2011 June 22. 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. Based on observations made with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, obtained at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under NASA contract NAS 5-26555. These observations are associated with program 12117. We thank Minjin Kim for help in analyzing the SDSS spectrum. The CRTS survey is supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation under grants AST-0909182 and CNS-0540369. Support for program number GO proposal 12117 was provided by NASA through a grant from the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under NASA contract NAS 5-26555. The work at Caltech was supported in part by the NASA Fermi grant 08-FERMI08-0025, and by the Ajax 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. J.L.P. acknowledges support from NASA through Hubble Fellowship Grant HF-51261.01-A awarded by the STScI, which is operated by AURA, Inc. for NASA, under contract NAS 5-26555. The PQ survey is supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation under Grants AST-0407448 and AST-0407297. Support for M.C. is provided by Proyecto Basal PFB-06/2007, by FONDAP Centro de Astrofísica 15010003, and by MIDEPLAN Rs Programa Iniciativa Científica Milenio through grant P07-021-F, awarded to The Milky Way Millennium Nucleus. GALEX (Galaxy Evolution Explorer) is a NASA Small Explorer, launched in 2003 April. We gratefully acknowledge NASA's support for construction, operation, and science analysis for the GALEX mission, developed in cooperation with the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales of France and the Korean Ministry of Science and Technology. The Expanded Very Large Array is operated by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, a facility of the National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc. We thank the staff of GMRT that made these observations possible. GMRT is run by the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. The Fermi LAT Collaboration acknowledges support from a number of agencies and institutes for both the development and the operation of the LAT as well as scientific data analysis. These include NASA and DOE in the United States, CEA/Irfu and IN2P3/CNRS in France, ASI and INFN in Italy, MEXT, KEK, and JAXA in Japan, and the K. A. Wallenberg Foundation, the Swedish Research Council and the National Space Board in Sweden. We thank all the observers at ARIES who provided their valuable time and support for the observations of this event. The UBVRI observations presented here are included by R.R. in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a Ph.D. degree.

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Published - Drake2011p14661Astrophys_J.pdf

Submitted - 1103.5514


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