NASA’s WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer ) telescope has collected some important data on black holes, in particular, about the big jets of energy that stream out of them.
Scientists study jets to learn more about the extreme environments around black holes. Much has been learned about the material feeding black holes, called accretion disks, and the jets themselves, through studies using X-rays, gamma rays and radio waves. But key measurements of the brightest part of the jets, located at their bases, have been difficult despite decades of work. WISE is offering a new window into this missing link through its infrared observations.
“Imagine what it would be like if our sun were to undergo sudden, random bursts, becoming three times brighter in a matter of hours and then fading back again. That’s the kind of fury we observed in this jet,” said Poshak Gandhi, a scientist with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). He is the lead author of a new study on the results appearing in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. “With WISE’s infrared vision, we were able to zoom in on the inner regions near the base of the stellar-mass black hole’s jet for the first time and the physics of jets in action.”