SPIRITS 16tn in NGC 3556: A Heavily Obscured and Low-luminosity Supernova at 8.8 Mpc

Jacob E. Jencson, Mansi M. Kasliwal, Scott M. Adams, Howard E. Bond, Ryan M. Lau, Joel Johansson, Assaf Horesh, Kunal P. Mooley, Robert Fender, Kishalay De, Dónal O'Sullivan, Frank J. Masci, Ann Marie Cody, Nadia Blagorodnova, Ori D. Fox, Robert D. Gehrz, Peter A. Milne, Daniel A. Perley, Nathan Smith, Schuyler D. Van Dyk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


We present the discovery by the SPitzer InfraRed Intensive Transients Survey (SPIRITS) of a likely supernova (SN) in NGC 3556 (M108) at only 8.8 Mpc that was not detected by optical searches. A luminous infrared (IR) transient at M [4.5] = -16.7 mag (Vega), SPIRITS 16tn is coincident with a dust lane in the inclined, star-forming disk of the host. Using observations in the IR, optical, and radio, we attempt to determine the nature of this event. We estimate A V ≈ 8-9 mag of extinction, placing it among the three most highly obscured IR-discovered SNe. The [4.5] light curve declined at a rate of 0.013 mag day-1, and the [3.6]-[4.5] color increased from 0.7 to ≳1.0 mag by 184.7 days post discovery. Optical/IR spectroscopy shows a red continuum but no clearly discernible features, preventing a definitive spectroscopic classification. Radio observations constrain the radio luminosity of SPIRITS 16tn to L ν ≲ 1024 erg s-1 Hz-1 between 3 and 15 GHz, excluding many varieties of core-collapse SNe. An SN Ia is ruled out by the observed IR color and lack of spectroscopic features from Fe-peak elements. SPIRITS 16tn was fainter at [4.5] than typical stripped-envelope SNe by ≈1 mag. Comparison of the spectral energy distribution to SNe II suggests that SPIRITS 16tn was both highly obscured and intrinsically dim, possibly akin to the low-luminosity SN 2005cs. We infer the presence of an IR dust echo powered by an initial peak luminosity of the transient of 5 × 1040 erg s-1 ≲ L peak ≲ 4 × 1043 erg s-1, consistent with the observed range for SNe II. This discovery illustrates the power of IR surveys to overcome the compounding effects of visible extinction and optically subluminous events in completing the inventory of nearby SNe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 10 2018


  • dust, extinction
  • galaxies: individual (NGC 3556)
  • supernovae: general
  • supernovae: individual (SPIRITS 16tn)
  • surveys

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'SPIRITS 16tn in NGC 3556: A Heavily Obscured and Low-luminosity Supernova at 8.8 Mpc'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this