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The SN 2008S Progenitor Star: Gone or Again Self-Obscured?

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We obtained late-time optical and near-IR imaging of SN 2008S with the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT). We find that (1) it is again invisible at optical (UBVR) wavelengths to magnitude limits of approximately 25 mag, and (2) while detected in the near-IR (HK) at approximately 20 mag, it is fading rapidly. The near-IR detections in March and May 2010 are consistent with dust emission at a blackbody temperature of T ~ 900 K and a total luminosity of L ~ 40000 Lsun, comparable to the luminosity of the obscured progenitor star. If it is a supernova, the near-IR emission is likely due to shock heated dust since the elapsed time from peak is too long to support a near-IR dust echo and the decline in luminosity is shallower than the 56Co slope. If it is reprocessed emission from a surviving progenitor, a dust photosphere must have reestablished itself closer to the star than before the transient (~40 AU rather than 150 AU), unless there is a second, cooler dust component that dominates at mid-IR wavelengths. The continued rapid fading at roughly constant temperature favors transient emission, but the SED peaks in the mid-IR and future Spitzer observations will be needed to close the case.


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