VVV-WIT-12 and Its Fashionable Nebula: A 4 yr Long-period Young Stellar Object with a Light Echo?

Roberto K. Saito, Bringfried Stecklum, Dante Minniti, Philip W. Lucas, Zhen Guo, Leigh C. Smith, Luciano Fraga, Felipe Navarete, Juan Carlos Beamin, Calum Morris

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We report the serendipitous discovery of VVV-WIT-12, an unusual variable source that seems to induce variability in its surrounding nebula. The source belongs to the rare objects that we call WITs (short for What Is This?) discovered within the VISTA Variables in the Vía Láctea (VVV) survey. VVV-WIT-12 was discovered during a pilot search for light echoes from distant supernovae in the Milky Way using the near-IR images of the VVV survey. This source has an extremely red spectral energy distribution, consistent with a very reddened (A_V∼100 mag) long-period variable star (P∼1525 days). Furthermore, it is enshrouded in a nebula that changes brightness and color with time, apparently in sync with the central source variations. The near-IR light curve and complementary follow-up spectroscopy observations are consistent with a variable young stellar object illuminating its surrounding nebula. In this case the source periodic variation along the cycles produces an unprecedented light echo in the different regions of the nebula.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberL1
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2023


  • Sky surveys
  • Variable stars
  • Stellar oscillations
  • Galaxy stellar content


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