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The Christmas 2010 Burst

On Christmas Day 2010, Swift detected an unusual event. Papers published in Nature on 1st December (Thöne et al. and Campana et al.) suggest two completely different interpretations: either a novel type of GRB/supernova or a minor body (eg a comet) falling onto a neutron star. See our press page for related articles online (Multimedia links).

Christmas burst
Artist's impression of the Christmas Burst. The merging of the helium and neutron star produces a broad torus, plus two jets aligned with the rotation axis of the system. The jets interact with the previously ejected torus causing the observed black body spectrum. Click for a larger version.
Credit: Aurore Simonnet, NASA, E/PO, Sonoma State University