A LUMINOUS, FAST RISING UV-TRANSIENT DISCOVERED BY ROTSE: A TIDAL DISRUPTION EVENT?
We present follow-up observations of an optical transient (OT) discovered by ROTSE on Jan. 21, 2009. Photometric monitoring was carried out with ROTSE-IIIb in the optical and Swift in the UV up to +70 days after discovery. The light curve showed a fast rise time of ~10 days followed by a steep decline over the next 60 days, which was much faster than that implied by 56Ni - 56Co radioactive decay. The SDSS DR10 database contains a faint, red object at the position of the OT, which appears
... y extended. This and other lines of evidence suggest that the OT is of extragalactic origin, and this faint object is likely the host galaxy. A sequence of optical spectra obtained with the 9.2-m Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) between +8 and +45 days after discovery revealed a hot, blue continuum with no visible spectral features. A few weak features that appeared after +30 days probably originated from the underlying host. Fitting synthetic templates to the observed spectrum of the host galaxy revealed a redshift of z = 0.19. At this redshift the peak magnitude of the OT is close to -22.5, similar to the brightest super-luminous supernovae; however, the lack of identifiable spectral features makes the massive stellar death hypothesis less likely. A more plausible explanation appears to be the tidal disruption of a sun-like star by the central super-massive black hole. We argue that this transient likely belongs to a class of super-Eddington tidal disruption events.