We present the Pan-STARRS1 discovery of PS1-10afx, a unique hydrogen-deficient superluminous supernova (SLSN) at redshift z = 1.388. The light curve peaked at z P1 = 21.7 mag, making PS1-10afx comparable to the most luminous known SNe, with Mu = -22.3 mag. Our extensive optical and near-infrared observations indicate that the bolometric light curve of PS1-10afx rose on the unusually fast timescale of 12 days to the extraordinary peak luminosity of 4.1 × 1044 erg s-1 (M bol = -22.8 mag) and subsequently faded rapidly. Equally important, the spectral energy distribution is unusually red for an SLSN, with a color temperature of 6800 K near maximum light, in contrast to previous hydrogen-poor SLSNe, which are bright in the ultraviolet (UV). The spectra more closely resemble those of a normal SN Ic than any known SLSN, with a photospheric velocity of 11, 000 km s-1 and evidence for line blanketing in the rest-frame UV. Despite the fast rise, these parameters imply a very large emitting radius (≳ 5 × 1015 cm). We demonstrate that no existing theoretical model can satisfactorily explain this combination of properties: (1) a nickel-powered light curve cannot match the combination of high peak luminosity with the fast timescale; (2) models powered by the spindown energy of a rapidly rotating magnetar predict significantly hotter and faster ejecta; and (3) models invoking shock breakout through a dense circumstellar medium cannot explain the observed spectra or color evolution. The host galaxy is well detected in pre-explosion imaging with a luminosity near L*, a star formation rate of 15 M yr-1, and is fairly massive (2 × 1010 M), with a stellar population age of 108 yr, also in contrast to the young dwarf hosts of known hydrogen-poor SLSNe. PS1-10afx is distinct from known examples of SLSNe in its spectra, colors, light-curve shape, and host galaxy properties, suggesting that it resulted from a different channel than other hydrogen-poor SLSNe.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science