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With the help the data collected by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) astronomers are actively hunting a class of supermassive black holes throughout the universe called blazars. The mission has revealed more than 200 blazars. Blazars are among the most energetic objects in the universe. They consist of supermassive black holes actively “feeding,” or pulling matter onto them, at the cores of giant galaxies. As the matter is dragged toward the supermassive hole, some of the energy is released in the form of jets traveling at nearly the speed of light. Blazars are unique because their jets are pointed directly at us. The findings ultimately will help researchers understand the extreme physics behind super-fast jets and the evolution of supermassive black holes in the early universe. One of the reasons the team of astronomers wants to find new blazars is to help identify mysterious spots in the sky sizzling with high-energy gamma rays, many of which are suspected to be blazars. NASA’s Fermi mission has identified hundreds of these spots, but other telescopes are needed to narrow in on the source of the gamma rays. Sifting through the early WISE catalog, the astronomers looked for the infrared signatures of blazars at the locations of more than 300 gamma-ray sources that remain mysterious. The researchers were able to show that a little more than half of the sources are most likely blazars. The team also used WISE images to identify more than 50 additional blazar candidates and observed more than 1,000 previously discovered blazars.
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