The paper is about a potential explanation for precursors of short Gamma Ray Bursts (sGRBs). GRBs are some of the most luminous events in the universe outshining any other gamma ray source in the sky*. Their high luminosity coupled with their short emission timescales implies an enormous amount of energy must released from a small volume of space ( 100km). They typically have isotropic equivalent luminosities of 1017 x the luminosity of the sun over a duration of less than 2 seconds. These highly luminous bursts are seen by the NASA's Swift and Fermi telescopes.
A leading model for sGRBs is the neutron star- neutron star merger. As the two neutron stars in the binary get closer together, the tidal frequency increases. The neutron star crust is believed to be very stiff and can have a resonant frequency just like glass. When the tidal frequency matches the resonant frequency of the crust, the crust shatters just like a wine glass shatters when an opera singer hits the right note and excites high energy emission, which can explain the flares seen just prior to sGRBs.
|From David Tsang, Caltech|
An opera singer and a broken glass can be seen below:
Disclaimer: Unfortunately, I do not know who are the authors of either the opera singer or the broken glass photo.
*Gamma rays are light of very high frequency of over 1019 Hz (more than 1 000 000 times the frequency of visible light) and wavelengths of less than 10 pm (a tenth of the diameter of an atom). Light of very high frequency also has very high energy.