09/25/2011 07:53 pm ET | Updated Nov 23, 2011

Black Hole 'Jet' Captured By NASA's WISE Mission

We tend to think of black holes as a force drawing things inward, not expelling massive jets from their cores.

But NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) recently collected incredible data from a black hole such as this, according to NASA. While scientists in the past have learned much about these jets and the accretion disks that feed them, WISE recently allowed them to collect data with new precision.

Though the black hole, known as GX 339-4, had been previously observed, the intensity observed by WISE was unprecedented.

"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).

The massive jets are fed by a nearby power source, making them substantially intense.

From NASA:

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. Like other black holes, it is an ultra-dense collection of matter, with gravity that is so great even light cannot escape. In this case, the black hole is orbited by a companion star that feeds it. Most of the material from the companion star is pulled into the black hole, but some of it is blasted away as a jet flowing at nearly the speed of light.

Earlier this year, NASA detected a black hole eating a star, the source producing X-rays, and they created an imagined video of the event.