3C 279 is a famous blazar, a galaxy whose high-energy activity is powered by a central supermassive black hole weighing up to a billion times the sun's mass and roughly the size of our planetary system. As matter falls toward the black hole, some particles race away at nearly the speed of light along a pair of jets pointed in opposite directions. Five billion years ago, a great disturbance rocked a region near the monster black hole at the center of the galaxy. On June 14, 2015, the pulse of high-energy light produced by this event finally arrived at Earth, setting off detectors aboard NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The satellite scans the sky for gamma rays, the highest-energy form of light. Between June 14 and 17, it observed a shower of gamma rays streaming from 3C 279. According to scientists, the flare was the most dynamic the satellite has ever seen. Watch the video to see a visualization of the gamma rays detected by Fermi.
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NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Blazar video and images courtesy of NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration
Fermi satellite image courtesy of NASA/GFSC