The latest release from NASA’s WISE mission has shown that just over 200 previously unidentified high energy objects are likely to be blazars.
A blazar is a form of active galactic nucleus (AGN) – a galaxy where the central black hole is ‘feeding’ on large amounts of material resulting in the release of huge amounts of radiation including two tight very bright jets.
The angle at which the AGN is situated relative to the Earth determines which form of AGN we observe even though all are tied to the same processes.
In the case of a blazar we are looking directly down the AGN’s jets you could even say right down the barrel of the gun!
As the AGN must be lined up almost exactly with Earth for a blazar to be observed they are understandably rare compared to the other forms of AGN which have a much larger range of possible viewing angles. That being said the WISE data has the potential to reveal several thousand more.
A team using the WISE data looked at 300 objects that had previously been detected as high energy gamma-ray sources by the Fermi Space Telescope, though up to now had remained unidentified.
Using WISE the team was able to observe these gamma ray hotspots in infra-red wavelengths and showed that just over half are most likely to be blazars. WISE had also observed 50 new blazars outside those Fermi oddities along with taking observations of more than 1000 previously identified blazar candidates.
One of the project leads, Francesco Massaro has explained that there may be several thousand more as of yet unknown blazars hidden within the WISE data that could be revealed using the techniques developed for this first sample.
You can read more here
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