NICER / ISS Science Nugget
for January 21, 2021
A Blazar Blazing
This past week, NICER began observations of the Active Galactic Nucleus (AGN) known as BL Lacertae, the prototype blazar, a type of active galaxy which shows extreme variability. This is a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy approximately 900 million light years away; as the black hole feeds on surrounding gas and dust, it emits a jet of energetic particles roughly along our sightline. The NICER observation was a Target of Opportunity (TOO) requested by Dr. F. D'Ammando, triggered by recent flaring activity detected from this source detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray observatory. So far, NICER observations show significant variability in brightness, sometimes exceeding 10 times that detected in a similar TOO observation in October 2020. NICER is continuing observations.
Figure: The NICER measured X-ray flux from BL Lacertae from January 18-21, 2020.