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The fast, luminous ultraviolet transient AT2018cow: extreme supernova, or disruption of a star by an intermediate-mass black hole?
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Number of Authors: 652019 (English)In: Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, ISSN 0035-8711, E-ISSN 1365-2966, Vol. 484, no 1, p. 1031-1049Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Wide-field optical surveys have begun to uncover large samples of fast (t(rise) less than or similar to 5 d), luminous (M-peak < 18), blue transients. While commonly attributed to the breakout of a supernova shock into a dense wind, the great distances to the transients of this class found so far have hampered detailed investigation of their properties. We present photometry and spectroscopy from a comprehensive worldwide campaign to observe AT 2018cow (ATLAS 18qqn), the first fast-luminous optical transient to be found in real time at low redshift. Our first spectra (<2 days after discovery) are entirely featureless. A very broad absorption feature suggestive of near-relativistic velocities develops between 3 and 8 days, then disappears. Broad emission features of H and He develop after >10 days. The spectrum remains extremely hot throughout its evolution, and the photospheric radius contracts with time (receding below R < 10 (14) cm after 1 month). This behaviour does not match that of any known supernova, although a relativistic jet within a fallback supernova could explain some of the observed features. Alternatively, the transient could originate from the disruption of a star by an intermediate-mass black hole, although this would require long-lasting emission of highly super-Eddington thermal radiation. In either case, AT 2018cow suggests that the population of fast luminous transients represents a new class of astrophysical event. Intensive follow-up of this event in its late phases, and of any future events found at comparable distance, will be essential to better constrain their origins.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019. Vol. 484, no 1, p. 1031-1049
Keywords [en]
Black hole, stars, supernovae: general, supernova: individual: AT2018cow
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Physical Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-168412DOI: 10.1093/mnras/sty3420ISI: 000462293100073OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-168412DiVA, id: diva2:1313656
Available from: 2019-05-06 Created: 2019-05-06 Last updated: 2019-05-06Bibliographically approved

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Perley, Daniel A.Ashall, ChrisCopperwheat, ChrisGoobar, ArielPian, ElenaSollerman, JesperTaddia, Francesco
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Department of PhysicsThe Oskar Klein Centre for Cosmo Particle Physics (OKC)Department of Astronomy
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