M85 Optical Transient 2006-1 (M85 OT 2006-1) is the most luminous member of the small family of V838 Mon-like objects, whose nature is still a mystery. This event took place in the Virgo Cluster of galaxies and peaked at an absolute magnitude of MI ≈ -13. Here we present Hubble Space Telescope images of M85 OT 2006-1 and its environment, taken before and after the eruption, along with a spectrum of the host galaxy at the transient location. We find that the progenitor of M85 OT 2006-1 was not associated with any star-forming region. The g- and z-band absolute magnitudes of the progenitor were fainter than about -4 and -6 mag, respectively. Therefore, we can set a lower limit of ∼50 Myr on the age of the youngest stars at the location of the progenitor that corresponds to a mass of <7 M⊙. Previously published line indices suggest that M85 has a mean stellar age of 1.6 ± 0.3 Gyr. If this mean age is representative of the progenitor of M85 OT 2006-1, then we can further constrain its mass to be less than 2 M ⊙. We compare the energetics and mass limit derived for the M85 OT 2006-1 progenitor with those expected from a simple model of violent stellar mergers. Combined with further modeling, these new clues may ultimately reveal the true nature of these puzzling events.
- Stars: individual (M85 OT 2006-1, V838 Mon, M31 RV, V4332 Sgr)