Context. The H.E.S.S. Cherenkov telescope array has been surveying the Galactic plane for new VHE (>100 GeV) gamma-ray sources. Aims. We report on a newly detected point-like source, HESS J1943+213. This source coincides with an unidentified hard X-ray source IGR J19443+2117, which was proposed to have radio and infrared counterparts. Methods. We combine new H.E.S.S., Fermi/LAT and Nançay Radio Telescope observations with pre-existing non-simultaneous multi-wavelength observations of IGR J19443+2117 and discuss the likely source associations as well as the interpretation as an active galactic nucleus, a gamma-ray binary or a pulsar wind nebula. Results. HESS J1943+213 is detected at the significance level of 7.9σ (post-trials) at RA(J2000)= 19 h43m55s ± 1s stat ± 1s say, Dec(J2000)= +21° 18'8" ± 17"stat ± 20"sys. The source has a soft spectrum with photon index Γ = 3.1 ± 0.3stat ± 0.2sys and a flux above 470 GeV of (1.3 ± 0.2stat ± 0.3sys) × 10-12 cm-2 s -1. There is no Fermi/LAT counterpart down to a flux limit of 6 × 10-9 cm-2 s-1 in the 0.1-100 GeV energy range (95% confidence upper limit calculated for an assumed power-law model with a photon index Γ = 2.0). The data from radio to VHE gamma-rays do not show any significant variability. Conclusions. The lack of a massive stellar counterpart disfavors the binary hypothesis, while the soft VHE spectrum would be very unusual in case of a pulsar wind nebula. In addition, the distance estimates for Galactic counterparts places them outside of the Milky Way. All available observations favor an interpretation as an extreme, high-frequency peaked BL Lac object with a redshift z > 0.14. This would be the first time a blazar is detected serendipitously from ground-based VHE observations, and the first VHE AGN detected in the Galactic Plane.
- galaxies: active
- gamma rays: general