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Yet Another Extraordinary Optical Flare in the Blazar CTA 102 (Today's Brightest Quasar?)

ATel #9808; Thomas J. Balonek, Ryan W. Stahlin, Alina Sabyr, Katie J. Chapman, Saiyang Zhang (Colgate Univ., Hamilton, NY, USA)
on 30 Nov 2016; 09:05 UT
Credential Certification: Thomas J. Balonek (tbalonek@colgate.edu)

Subjects: Optical, AGN, Blazar, Quasar

Referred to by ATel #: 9821, 9840, 9841, 9863, 9868, 9869, 9901, 9911

The blazar CTA 102 continues its amazing intra-day optical flaring activity during a prolonged outburst, reaching the unparalleled optical brightness of R ~ 11.85 on 2016 November 30 (UT). This is one-and-a-half magnitudes brighter than observed during any outburst prior to 2016 November, more than three-quarters magnitude brighter than the blazar's previous reported brightness record on 2016 November 13 (ATel #9756), and five magnitudes brighter than the blazar's quiescent level (around R ~ 17.0).

On 2016 November 30 at 3 UT (JD 2457722.63), preliminary reductions show CTA 102 at R ~ 12.05. During the next hour, the blazar brightened by 0.2 magnitudes to R ~ 11.85 at 4 UT (JD 2457722.67).

On the previous night, we observed CTA 102 to be 1.0 magnitude fainter, varying between R ~ 13.0 and 12.9 during one-and-a-half hours around 0 UT on 2016 November 29 (JD 2457721.5).

During the period of enhanced optical activity in 2016 November, CTA 102 has reached successive unprecedented brightness levels and exhibited microvariability and significant intra-day variations on several occasions (ATel #9676, ATel #9732, ATel #9756, ATel #9776). This blazar has exhibited rapid, high amplitude optical variations as great as one- or two-tenths of a magnitude within an hour and one magnitude in a day. CTA 102 has also been active at NIR (ATel #9801) and gamma-ray (Atel #9743, ATel #9788) wavelengths during this period.

Observations at Colgate University's Foggy Bottom University in Hamilton, NY were obtained using the Ferson 0.4-m telescope equipped with a FLI PL1001 CCD camera. Student research participation at Colgate University is supported by a Colgate Research Council grant, the NASA / New York Space Grant, and Colgate Schlichting fellowships.

Further observations at multiple wavelengths are encouraged, particularly those sensitive to variations on timescales of minutes to hours.