"We came up with a crazy idea to use WISE's infrared observations, which are typically associated with lower-energy phenomena, to spot high-energy blazars, and it worked better than we hoped," said Franceso Massaro of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology near Palo Alto, Calif., and principal investigator of the research.
So the idea wasn't that crazy after all.
Blazars are basically active supermassive black holes lurking in the centers of massive galaxies. As matter - gas, dust, stars, aliens - gets eaten by the black hole's feeding frenzy, the complex environment close to the black hole can create powerful collimated jets of superheated material blasting from the galactic core. These jets are accelerated to nearly the speed of light. Beams of highly concentrated gamma-rays are then generated as a consequence - so to see a blazar from Earth, one of the jets need to be pointed right at us.
"Blazars are extremely rare because it's not too often that a supermassive black hole's jet happens to point towards Earth," said Massaro.