WISE Have Captured Rare Data of Flaring Black Hole

Astronomers using NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) have captured rare data of a flaring black hole, revealing new details about these powerful objects and their blazing jets. Scientists study jets to learn more about the extreme environments around black holes. The black hole, called GX 339-4, had been observed previously. It lies more than 20,000 light-years away from Earth near the center of our galaxy. It has a mass at least six times greater than the sun.┬áThe new results surprised the team, showing huge and erratic fluctuations in the jet activity on timescales ranging from 11 seconds to a few hours. The observations are like a dance of infrared colors and show that the size of the jet’s base varies.

Its radius is approximately 15,000 miles (24,140 kilometers), with dramatic changes by as large as a factor of 10 or more.┬áThe new data also allowed astronomers to make the best measurements yet of the black hole’s magnetic field, which is 30,000 times more powerful than the one generated by Earth at its surface.