PS1-10afx at z=1.388: Pan-STARRS1 Discovery of a New Type of Superluminous Supernova
We present the Pan-STARRS1 discovery of PS1-10afx, a unique hydrogen-deficient superluminous supernova (SLSN) at z=1.388. The light curve peaked at z_P1=21.7 mag, making PS1-10afx comparable to the most luminous known SNe, with M_u = -22.3 mag. Our extensive optical and NIR observations indicate that the bolometric light curve of PS1-10afx rose on the unusually fast timescale of ~12 d to the extraordinary peak luminosity of 4.1e44 erg/s (M_bol = -22.8 mag) and subsequently faded rapidly. Equally important, the SED is unusually red for a SLSN, with a color temperature of 6800 K near maximum light, in contrast to previous H-poor SLSNe, which are bright in the 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 and evidence for line blanketing in the rest-frame UV. Despite the fast rise, these parameters imply a very large emitting radius (>5e15 cm). We demonstrate that no existing theoretical model can satisfactorily explain this combination of properties: (i) a nickel-powered light curve cannot match the combination of high peak luminosity with the fast timescale; (ii) models powered by the spindown energy of a rapidly-rotating magnetar predict significantly hotter and faster ejecta; and (iii) 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_sun/yr, and is fairly massive (2e10 M_sun), with a stellar population age of 1e8 yr, also in contrast to the dwarf hosts of known H-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.