SDSS1133: An unusually persistent transient in a nearby dwarf galaxy

Michael Koss, Laura Blecha, Richard Mushotzky, Chao Ling Hung, Sylvain Veilleux, Benny Trakhtenbrot, Kevin Schawinski, Daniel Stern, Nathan Smith, Yanxia Li, Allison Man, Alexei V. Filippenko, Jon C. Mauerhan, Kris Stanek, David Sanders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


While performing a survey to detect recoiling supermassive black holes, we have identified an unusual source having a projected offset of 800 pc from a nearby dwarf galaxy. The object, SDSS J113323.97+550415.8, exhibits broad emission lines and strong variability.While originally classified as a supernova (SN) because of its non-detection in 2005, we detect it in recent and past observations over 63 yr and find over a magnitude of rebrightening in the last 2 yr. Using high-resolution adaptive optics observations, we constrain the source emission region to be ≲12 pc and find a disturbed host-galaxy morphology indicative of recent merger activity. Observations taken over more than a decade show narrow [OIII] lines, constant ultraviolet emission, broad Balmer lines, a constant putative black hole mass over a decade of observations despite changes in the continuum, and optical emission-line diagnostics consistent with an active galactic nucleus (AGN). However, the optical spectra exhibit blueshifted absorption, and eventually narrow Fe II and [Ca II] emission, each of which is rarely found in AGN spectra. While this peculiar source displays many of the observational properties expected of a potential black hole recoil candidate, some of the properties could also be explained by a luminous blue variable star (LBV) erupting for decades since 1950, followed by a Type IIn SN in 2001. Interpreted as an LBV followed by an SN analogous to SN 2009ip, the multidecade LBV eruptions would be the longest ever observed, and the broad Hα emission would be the most luminous ever observed at late times (>10 yr), larger than that of unusually luminous SNe such as SN 1988Z, suggesting one of the most extreme episodes of pre-SN mass-loss ever discovered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)515-527
Number of pages13
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 8 2014


  • Active-galaxies
  • Dwarf
  • General-galaxies
  • Supernovae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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