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An active galaxy nucleus (AGN) contains a supermassive black hole that is vigorously accreting material. It typically ejects jets of particles that move at close to the speed of light, radiating across many wavelengths, in particular the X-ray, in processes are among the most energetic phenomena in the universe. The jets are often also highly collimated and extend far beyond their host galaxy, and if they happen to be pointed along our line of sight they are the most spectacular class of this phenomenon: blazars.
A few years ago astronomers noticed that some types of blazars have jet powers that appear to exceed the power provided by the accretion. Two ideas were put forward to explain the difference: the jets are also extracting power from the spin of the black hole or from the magnetic flux around the object. How either process happens—if indeed they do happen—is hotly debated, but one popular line of argument asserts that the processes are somehow related to the mass of the supermassive black hole, with the most massive cases (more than a hundred million solar-masses) being the most anomalous. Recently the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope detected gamma-rays (even more energetic photons than X-rays) coming from jets in a class of galaxies called Seyferts,...
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