The Emergence of the Infrared Transient VVV-WIT-06
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We report the discovery of an enigmatic large-amplitude (ΔKs >10.5 mag) transient event in near-IR data obtained by the VISTA Variables in the Via Lactea (VVV) ESO Public Survey. The object (designated VVV-WIT- 06) is located at R.A.=17:07:18.917, decl.=-39:06:26.45 (J2000), corresponding to Galactic coordinates l=347.14539, b=0.88522. It exhibits a clear eruption, peaking at Ks=9 mag during 2013 July and fading to Ks ∼ 16.5 in 2017. Our late near-IR spectra show post-outburst emission lines, including some broad emission lines (upward of FWHM ∼ 3000 km s-1). We estimate a total extinction of AV = 10-15 mag in the surrounding field, and no progenitor was observed in ZYJHKs images obtained during 2010-2012 (down to Ks > 18.5mag). Subsequent deep near-IR imaging and spectroscopy, in concert with the available multiband photometry, indicate that VVV-WIT-06 may be either: (i) the closest Type I SN observed in about 400 years, (ii) an exotic highamplitude nova that would extend the known realm of such objects, or (iii) a stellar merger. In all of these cases, VVV-WIT-06 is a fascinating and curious astrophysical target under any of the scenarios considered.