SN 2015bh: NGC 2770’s 4th supernova or a luminous blue variable on its way to a Wolf-Rayet star?

Thöne, C. C.; de Ugarte Postigo, A.; Leloudas, G.; Gall, C.; Cano, Z.; Maeda, K.; Schulze, S.; Campana, S.; Wiersema, K.; Groh, J.; de la Rosa, J.; Bauer, F. E.; Malesani, D.; Maund, J.; Morrell, N.; Beletsky, Y.
Very massive stars in the final phases of their lives often show unpredictable outbursts that can mimic supernovae, so-called, "SN impostors", but the distinction is not always straightforward. Here we present observations of a luminous blue variable (LBV) in NGC 2770 in outburst over more than 20 yr that experienced a possible terminal explosion as type IIn SN in 2015, named SN 2015bh. This possible SN (or "main event") had a precursor peaking 40 days before maximum. The total energy release of the main event is 1.8 × 1049 erg, consistent with a <0.5 M⊙ shell plunging into a dense CSM. The emission lines show a single narrow P Cygni profile during the LBV phase and a double P Cygni profile post maximum suggesting an association of the second component with the possible SN. Since 1994 the star has been redder than an LBV in an S-Dor-like outburst. SN 2015bh lies within a spiral arm of NGC 2770 next to several small star-forming regions with a metallicity of 0.5 solar and a stellar population age of 7-10 Myr. SN 2015bh shares many similarities with SN 2009ip and may form a new class of objects that exhibit outbursts a few decades prior to a "hyper eruption" or final core-collapse. If the star survives this event it is undoubtedly altered, and we suggest that these "zombie stars" may evolve from an LBV to a Wolf-Rayet star over the timescale of only a few years. The final fate of these stars can only be determined with observations a decade or more after the SN-like event.
Main Author: 
Thöne, C. C.
IAA Authors: 
Thöne, C. C.; de Ugarte Postigo, A.; Cano, Z.
Publication Date : 
29 pp.
id. A129
Refereed paper
supernovae: individual: SN 2015bh, SN 2009ip, stars: massive