A Transient “Changing-look” Active Galactic Nucleus Resolved on Month Timescales from First-year Sloan Digital Sky Survey V Data
We report the discovery of a new “changing-look” active galactic nucleus (CLAGN) event, in the quasar SDSS J162829.17+432948.5 at z = 0.2603, identified through repeat spectroscopy from the fifth Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-V). Optical photometry taken during 2020-2021 shows a dramatic dimming of Δg ≈ 1 mag, followed by a rapid recovery on a timescale of several months, with the ≲2 month period of rebrightening captured in new SDSS-V and Las Cumbres Observatory spectroscopy. This is one of the fastest CLAGN transitions observed to date. Archival observations suggest that the object experienced a much more gradual dimming over the period of 2011-2013. Our spectroscopy shows that the photometric changes were accompanied by dramatic variations in the quasar-like continuum and broad-line emission. The excellent agreement between the pre- and postdip photometric and spectroscopic appearances of the source, as well as the fact that the dimmest spectra can be reproduced by applying a single extinction law to the brighter spectral states, favor a variable line-of-sight obscuration as the driver of the observed transitions. Such an interpretation faces several theoretical challenges, and thus an alternative accretion-driven scenario cannot be excluded. The recent events observed in this quasar highlight the importance of spectroscopic monitoring of large active galactic nucleus samples on weeks-to-months timescales, which the SDSS-V is designed to achieve.