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 languageAmerican English
Article number20
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 10 Aug 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
RATIR is a collaboration between the University of California, the Universidad Nacional Autonóma de México, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and Arizona State University, benefiting from the loan of an H2RG detector from Teledyne Scientific and Imaging. RATIR, the automation of the Harold L. Johnson Telescope of the Observatorio Astronómico Nacional on Sierra San Pedro Maŕtir, and the operation of both are funded by the partner institutions and through NASA grants NNX09AH71G, NNX09AT02G, NNX10AI27G, and NNX12AE66G; CONACyT grant INFR-2009-01-122785; UNAM PAPIIT grant IN113810; and a UC MEXUS-CONACyT grant.

Funding Information:
This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship under grant no. DGE-1144469. H.E.B. acknowledges support for this work provided by NASA through grants GO-13935 and GO-14258 from the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by AURA, Inc., under NASA contract NAS 5-26555. R.D.G. was supported in part by the United States Air Force. A.H. acknowledges support by the I-Core Program of the Planning and Budgeting Committee and the Israel Science Foundation.

Funding Information:
Some of the data presented herein were obtained at the W. M. Keck Observatory, which is operated as a scientific partnership among the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Observatory was made possible by the generous financial support of the W. M. Keck Foundation. The authors wish to recognize and acknowledge the very significant cultural role and reverence that the summit of Maunakea has always had within the indigenous Hawaiian community. We are most fortunate to have the opportunity to conduct observations from this mountain.

Funding Information:
UKIRT is owned by the University of Hawaii (UH) and operated by the UH Institute for Astronomy; operations are enabled through the cooperation of the East Asian Observatory. When the data reported here were acquired, UKIRT was supported by NASA and operated under an agreement among the University of Hawaii, the University of Arizona, and Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center; operations were enabled through the cooperation of the East Asian Observatory.

Funding Information:
The Legacy Surveys imaging of the DESI footprint is supported by the Director, Office of Science, Office of High Energy Physics of the U.S. Department of Energy under contract No. DE-AC02-05CH1123, by the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, a DOE Office of Science User Facility under the same contract; and by the U.S. National Science Foundation, Division of Astronomical Sciences under contract No. AST-0950945 to NOAO.

Funding Information:
This work is based in part on observations with the NASA/ ESA Hubble Space Telescope obtained at the Space Telescope Science Institute and from the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes at STScI, which are operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under NASA contract NAS5-26555. These observations are associated with programs GO-14258 and SNAP-5446.

Funding Information:
The Legacy Survey team makes use of data products from the Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE), which is a project of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology. NEOWISE is funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Funding Information:
Based on observations obtained at the Gemini Observatory acquired through the Gemini Observatory Archive and processed using the Gemini IRAF package, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under a cooperative agreement with the NSF on behalf of the Gemini partnership: the National Science Foundation (United States), the National Research Council (Canada), CONICYT (Chile), Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación Productiva (Argentina), and Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação (Brazil).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.


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


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