Multiwavelength approach to classifying transient events in the direction of M 31
National Optical Astronomy Observatory, Tucson, AZ
2 Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, Karl-Schwarzschild-Str. 1, 85748 Garching, Germany
3 Space Research Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, Profsoyuznaya 84/32, 117997 Moscow, Russia
4 Division of Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA
5 Infrared Processing and Analysis Center, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA
6 Institute of Astronomy, National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu 30013, Taiwan
Accepted: 28 March 2018
Context. In the hunt for rare time-domain events, it is important to consider confusing exotic extragalactic phenomena with more common Galactic foreground events.
Aims. We show how observations from multiple wavebands, in this case optical and X-ray observations, can be used to facilitate the distinction between the two.
Methods. We discovered an extremely bright and rapid transient event during optical observations of the M 31 galaxy taken by the intermediate Palomar Transient Factory (iPTF). The persistent optical counterpart of this transient was previously thought to be a variable star in M 31 without any dramatic flux excursions. The iPTF event initially appeared to be an extraordinarily rapid and energetic extragalactic transient, which had a ≈3 mag positive flux excursion in less than a kilosecond; one of the exciting possibilities was this event could be a very fast nova in M 31. The nature of the source was resolved with the help of Chandra archival data, where we found an X-ray counterpart and obtained its X-ray spectrum.
Results. We find the X-ray spectrum of the quiescent emission can be described by a model of optically thin plasma emission with a temperature of ≈7 MK, typical for coronal emission from an active star. The combination of the X-ray luminosity, which is calculated assuming the source is located in M 31 (~3 × 1036 erg s−1), and the color temperature exclude any type of known accreting compact object or active star in M 31. We argue instead that the optical transient source is an M-type main-sequence, active star located in the disk of the Milky Way at a distance of ~0.5–1 kpc. Its persistent X-ray luminosity is in the ≈1.3–5 × 1030 erg s−1 range and it has the absolute optical magnitude of 9.5–11.0 mag in the R band. The observed optical flare has the equivalent duration of ≈95 min and total energy of ≈(0.3–1) × 1035 erg in the R band, which places it among the brightest flares ever observed from an M-type star. This case can serve as an example for the classification of Galactic and extragalactic events in upcoming high-cadence time-domain projects, such as the Zwicky Transient Facility and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.
Key words: stars: general / galaxies: individual: M 31 / surveys / X-rays: stars
© ESO 2018