Review: two explanations for the Christmas Burst

For the final astronomy twitter journal club meeting of 2011 we discussed the two recently published explanations for the peculiar gamma-ray burst GRB 101225A. This object was first seen on Christmas Day 2010 and hence was nicknamed the Christmas Burst, giving the meeting a tenuously festive connection. There’s some more information in our Preview post and you can also read the Full Transcript of the meeting.

Journal club will return on Thursday 12th January. Have a Happy Christmas everyone and see you all next year.

Onto the review.

Model fitting issues

I thought one of the more interesting things about this week’s papers is that the GRB can be explained with 2 very different models – @astronomyjc

it’s clearly problematic to employ tried and tested models to previously unobserved phenomena – @LeonBaloo

True. They really need to see another one – help to pin down its peculiarities – @astronomyjc

The minor body paper does make some leaps of faith, relying on this XSPEC model fitting software to do the fitting – @LeonBaloo

Which model do we prefer? Or should we be looking for a third option?

The stellar model does seem to be more appealing… neutron stars are more often observed in binaries. – @LeonBaloo

Yeah, plus it seems to fit in more with the extragalactic supernova progenitor theory for GRBs – @astronomyjc

Pages 8-12 in supp material of the minor body paper discuss some of the other possibilities – homework for the future – @LeonBaloo

ok bottom of page 11 in minor body paper rules out magnetars! – @LeonBaloo

Along with many, many other things. They’re very thorough. Can’t argue that they haven’t tried out many options – @astronomyjc

Im always a little skeptical if a paper tries to exclude almost anything, except for what they like most…. but im no specialist! – @Awesome_Ph

Could more data help?

At this point I really couldn’t say – know next to nothing about host galaxy confirmation for GRBs! – @LeonBaloo

are there different/more obs that could tell models apart? What’s required? – @AstroSpanner

As far as I can tell, detecting the host & thus getting the distance to the GRB would rule out one or the other – @astronomyjc

Unless similar event occurs and is well observed… not much to go on as far as authors say – exhaustive with options – @LeonBaloo

Indeed! Found what I was looking for – the GRB is not too far placed from the direction of the Galactic Bulge. – @LeonBaloo

Which means that getting an optical confirmation through all that gas/dust/starlight is going to be real tough… – @LeonBaloo

A phenomenological disagreement

Making a first stab with known models is fine, but if nothing fits the picture, phenomenological options must be sought – @LeonBaloo

Why must they be sought? Why is a conclusion that nothing seems to work good enough? – @Awesome_Ph

Because astronomers are scientists, not engineers 😀 – @LeonBaloo

Imho, a phenomenological model without physics in it does not add anything to our understanding. Might as well skip it. – @Awesome_Ph

We differ in our understanding – by phenomenological, I mean a physically motivated model that accounts for rare events – @LeonBaloo

I call that ‘making something up that happens to work’ if this wouldnt work, they would have made up something else…:) – @Awesome_Ph

That’s pretty much science right there: “making something up that happens to work” – @LeonBaloo

And one last point

Final thought: Both authors need to figure out what observations needed to confirm their models. Can’t comment on model themselves! – @LeonBaloo

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