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The Dual Personality of the 'Christmas Burst'

The Christmas burst, also known as GRB 101225A, was discovered in the constellation Andromeda by Swift's Burst Alert Telescope at 1:38 p.m. EST on Dec. 25, 2010. Two very different scenarios successfully reproduce features of this peculiar cosmic explosion. It was either caused by novel type of supernova located billions of light-years away or an unusual collision much closer to home, within our own galaxy.

Common to both scenarios is the presence of a neutron star, the crushed core that forms when a star many times the sun's mass explodes.

According to one science team, the burst occurred in an exotic binary system where a neutron star orbited a normal star that had just entered its red giant phase. The outer atmosphere of the giant expanded so much that it engulfed the neutron star, which resulted in both the ejection of the giant's atmosphere and rapid tightening of the neutron star's orbit.

Once the two stars became wrapped in a common envelope of gas, the neutron star may have merged with the giant's core after just five orbits, or about 18 months. The end result of the merger was the birth of a black hole and the production of oppositely directed jets of particles moving at nearly the speed of light, which made the gamma rays, followed by a weak supernova. Based on this interpretation, the event took place about 5.5 billion light-years away, and the team has detected what may be a faint galaxy at the right location.

Another team supports an alternative model that involves the tidal disruption of a large comet-like object and the ensuing crash of debris onto a neutron star located only about 10,000 light-years away.

Gamma-ray emission occurred when debris fell onto the neutron star. Clumps of cometary material likely made a few orbits, with different clumps following different paths before settling into a disk around the neutron star. X-ray variations detected by Swift's X-Ray Telescope that lasted several hours may have resulted from late-arriving clumps that struck the neutron star as the disk formed.

The NASA release is here.

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More information on this topic available at:
http://(http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/swift/bursts/dual-burst.html)

These animations illustrate two wildly different explanations for GRB 101225A, better known as the    These animations illustrate two wildly different explanations for GRB 101225A, better known as the "Christmas burst." First, a solitary neutron star in our own galaxy shreds and accretes an approaching comet-like body. In the second, a neutron star is engulfed by, spirals into and merges with an evolved giant star in a distant galaxy.

For complete transcript, click here.
Duration: 1.7 minutes
Available formats:
  1280x720 (59.94 fps) QT         1 GB
  1280x720 (59.94 fps) QT         303 MB
  1280x720 (29.97 fps) QT         71 MB
  960x720 (29.97 fps) MPEG-4   55 MB
  1280x720 (30 fps) QT         38 MB
  1280x720 (29.97 fps) WMV         37 MB
  1280x720 (29.97 fps) MPEG-4   22 MB
  1280x720 (59.94 fps) QT         21 MB
  640x360 (29.97 fps) MPEG-4   15 MB
  320x180 (29.97 fps) MPEG-4   6 MB
  2560x1440 TIFF         10 MB
  2560x1440 JPEG         718 KB
  320x180     PNG           224 KB
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Animation that interprets the Christmas burst as the merger of a red giant and a neutron star.    Animation that interprets the Christmas burst as the merger of a red giant and a neutron star.
Duration: 43.2 seconds
Available formats:
  1280x720 (59.94 fps) QT         739 MB
  1280x720 (60 fps) Frames (Supernova)
  1280x720 (59.94 fps) QT         210 MB
  1280x720 (29.97 fps) QT         59 MB
  960x720 (29.97 fps) MPEG-4   25 MB
  1280x720 (29.97 fps) WMV         24 MB
  1280x720 (30 fps) QT         21 MB
  1280x720 (29.97 fps) MPEG-4   17 MB
  1280x720 (59.94 fps) QT         12 MB
  640x360 (29.97 fps) MPEG-4   7 MB
  1280x720   TIFF         2 MB
  1280x720   JPEG         210 KB
How to play our movies


Animation that interprets the burst as a comet collision onto a neutron star.    Animation that interprets the burst as a comet collision onto a neutron star.
Duration: 20.8 seconds
Available formats:
  1280x720 (59.94 fps) QT         299 MB
  1280x720 (60 fps) Frames (Comet)
  1280x720 (59.94 fps) QT         22 MB
  1280x720 (30 fps) QT         12 MB
  960x720 (29.97 fps) MPEG-4   9 MB
  1280x720 (29.97 fps) WMV         7 MB
  1280x720 (59.94 fps) QT         6 MB
  1280x720 (29.97 fps) QT         4 MB
  640x360 (29.97 fps) MPEG-4   3 MB
  1280x720 (29.97 fps) MPEG-4   2 MB
  1280x720   TIFF         279 KB
How to play our movies


Frame from animation that interprets the Christmas burst as the merger of a red giant and a neutron star. Labeled.    Frame from animation that interprets the Christmas burst as the merger of a red giant and a neutron star. Labeled.

Available formats:
  2560 x 1440     JPEG       1 MB


Frame from animation that interprets the Christmas burst as the merger of a red giant and a neutron star. No labels.    Frame from animation that interprets the Christmas burst as the merger of a red giant and a neutron star. No labels.

Available formats:
  2560 x 1440     TIFF     10 MB
  2560 x 1440     JPEG   693 KB


Frame from animation that interprets the burst as a comet collision onto a neutron star. Labeled.    Frame from animation that interprets the burst as a comet collision onto a neutron star. Labeled.

Available formats:
  2560 x 1440     JPEG   342 KB


Frame from animation that interprets the burst as a comet collision onto a neutron star. No labels.    Frame from animation that interprets the burst as a comet collision onto a neutron star. No labels.

Available formats:
  2560 x 1440     TIFF       1 MB
  2560 x 1440     JPEG   213 KB


Second frame from animation that interprets the burst as a comet collision onto a neutron star. No labels.    Second frame from animation that interprets the burst as a comet collision onto a neutron star. No labels.

Available formats:
  2560 x 1440     TIFF       6 MB
  2560 x 1440     JPEG   226 KB


Artist's interpretation of the tidal distruption model of the Christmas burst. Credit: NASA/Swift/Aurore Simonnet, Sonoma State Univ.    Artist's interpretation of the tidal distruption model of the Christmas burst.

Credit: NASA/Swift/Aurore Simonnet, Sonoma State Univ.

Available formats:
  2626 x 3326     TIFF     33 MB


Artist's interpretation of the supernova model of the Christmas burst. Credit: NASA/Swift/Aurore Simonnet, Sonoma State Univ.    Artist's interpretation of the supernova model of the Christmas burst.

Credit: NASA/Swift/Aurore Simonnet, Sonoma State Univ.

Available formats:
  2626 x 2591     TIFF     26 MB

Short URL to This Page:http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/goto?10808
Animation Number:10808
Completed:2011-08-02
Animators:Scott Wiessinger (USRA) (Lead)
 Chris Smith (HTSI)
Video Editor:Scott Wiessinger (USRA)
Producer:Scott Wiessinger (USRA)
Writer:Francis Reddy (Syneren Technologies)
Platform/Sensor/Data Set:Swift
Series:Narrated Movies
Goddard TV Tape:G2011-127 -- Christmas Burst
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
 
Keywords:
SVS >> Comet
SVS >> Gamma Ray
SVS >> HDTV
SVS >> Neutron Star
SVS >> Satellite
SVS >> X-ray
SVS >> Black Hole
SVS >> Astrophysics
SVS >> Space
SVS >> Red Giant
SVS >> Swift
SVS >> Star
SVS >> Space Science
 
 


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Many of our multimedia items use the GCMD keywords. These keywords can be found on the Internet with the following citation:
Olsen, L.M., G. Major, K. Shein, J. Scialdone, S. Ritz, T. Stevens, M. Morahan, A. Aleman, R. Vogel, S. Leicester, H. Weir, M. Meaux, S. Grebas, C.Solomon, M. Holland, T. Northcutt, R. A. Restrepo, R. Bilodeau, 2013. NASA/Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Earth Science Keywords. Version 8.0.0.0.0

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