The discovery and nature of the optical transient CSS100217:102913+404220

A. J. Drake, S. G. Djorgovski, A. Mahabal, J. Anderson, R. Roy, V. Mohan, S. Ravindranath, D. Frail, S. Gezari, James D. Neill, L. C. Ho, J. L. Prieto, D. Thompson, J. Thorstensen, M. Wagner, R. Kowalski, J. Chiang, J. E. Grove, F. K. Schinzel, D. L. WoodL. Carrasco, E. Recillas, L. Kewley, K. N. Archana, Aritra Basu, Yogesh Wadadekar, Brijesh Kumar, A. D. Myers, E. S. Phinney, R. Williams, M. J. Graham, M. Catelan, E. Beshore, S. Larson, E. Christensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


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 × 1052erg 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 150pc 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 10 2011


  • galaxies: active
  • galaxies: nuclei
  • galaxies: stellar content
  • supernovae: general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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