PS1-13cbe: The rapid transition of a Seyfert 2 to a Seyfert 1

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accretion, accretion discs, black hole physics, galaxies: active, galaxies: nuclei


© 2019 The Author(s) Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. We present a nuclear transient event, PS1-13cbe, that was first discovered in the Pan-STARRS1 survey in 2013. The outburst occurred in the nucleus of the galaxy SDSS J222153.87+003054.2 at z = 0.123 55, which was classified as a Seyfert 2 in a pre-outburst archival Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) spectrum. PS1-13cbe showed the appearance of strong broad H α and H β emission lines and a non-stellar continuum in a Magellan spectrum taken 57 d after the peak of the outburst that resembled the characteristics of a Seyfert 1. These broad lines were not present in the SDSS spectrum taken a decade earlier and faded away within 2 yr, as observed in several late-time MDM spectra. We argue that the dramatic appearance and disappearance of the broad lines and a factor of ∼8 increase in the optical continuum are most likely caused by variability in the pre-existing accretion disc than a tidal disruption event, supernova, or variable obscuration. The time-scale for the turn-on of the optical emission of ∼70 d observed in this transient is among the shortest observed in a 'changing-look' active galactic nucleus.