The Emergence of the Infrared transient VVV-WIT-06

Dante Minniti, Roberto K. Saito, F. Forster, G. Pignata, Valentin D. Ivanov, Philip Lucas, J.C. Beamin, Jura Borissova, Marcio Catelan, Oscar A. Gonzalez, Maren Hempel, E Hsiao, Radostin Kurtev, Daniel Majaess, N. Masetti, N.I. Morrell, M.M. Phillips, J. B. Pullen, M. Rejkuba, L.C. SmithF. Surot, Elena Valenti, Manuela Zoccali

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We report the discovery of an enigmatic large-amplitude (ΔKs> 10.5 mag) transient event in near-IR data obtained by the VISTA Variables in the Via Lactea (VVV) ESO Public Survey. The object (designated VVV-WIT-06) is located at R.A. = 17:07:18.917, decl. = -39:06:26.45 (J2000), corresponding to Galactic coordinates l = 347.14539, b = 0.88522. It exhibits a clear eruption, peaking at Ks = 9 mag during 2013 July and fading to Ks ~ 16.5 in 2017. Our late near-IR spectra show post-outburst emission lines, including some broad emission lines (upward of {FWHM} ~ 3000 k/s). We estimate a total extinction of A_V=10--15 mag in the surrounding field, and no progenitor was observed in ZYJHKs images obtained during 2010-2012 (down to Ks> 18.5 mag). Subsequent deep near-IR imaging and spectroscopy, in concert with the available multiband photometry, indicate that VVV-WIT-06 may be either: (I) the closest Type I SN observed in about 400 years, (II) an exotic high-amplitude nova that would extend the known realm of such objects, or (III) a stellar merger. In all of these cases, VVV-WIT-06 is a fascinating and curious astrophysical target under any of the scenarios considered.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberL23
Number of pages6
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Nov 2017


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