1100 Days in the Life of the Supernova 2018ibb -- the Best Pair-Instability Supernova Candidate, to date

Stars with ZAMS masses between 140 and 260M⊙ are thought to explode as pair-instability supernovae (PISNe). During their thermonuclear runaway, PISNe can produce up to several tens of solar masses of radioactive nickel, resulting in luminous transients similar to some superluminous supernovae (SLSNe). Yet, no unambiguous PISN has been discovered so far. SN2018ibb is a H-poor SLSN at z=0.166 that evolves extremely slowly compared to the hundreds of known SLSNe. Between mid 2018 and early 2022, we monitored its photometric and spectroscopic evolution from the UV to the NIR with 2-10m class telescopes. SN2018ibb radiated >3×1051erg during its evolution, and its bolometric light curve reached >2×1044ergs−1 at peak. The long-lasting rise of >93 rest-frame days implies a long diffusion time, which requires a very high total ejected mass. The PISN mechanism naturally provides both the energy source (56Ni) and the long diffusion time. Theoretical models of PISNe make clear predictions for their photometric and spectroscopic properties. SN2018ibb complies with most tests on the light curves, nebular spectra and host galaxy, potentially all tests with the interpretation we propose. Both the light curve and the spectra require 25-44 M⊙ of freshly nucleosynthesised 56Ni, pointing to the explosion of a metal-poor star with a He-core mass of 120-130 M⊙ at the time of death. This interpretation is also supported by the tentative detection of [Co II]λ1.025μm, which has never been observed in any other PISN candidate or SLSN before. Powering by a central engine, such as a magnetar or a black hole, can be excluded with high confidence. This makes SN2018ibb by far the best candidate for being a PISN, to date.

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Research Group created: 17th May 2023

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