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Blazars are found in the middle of galaxies where supermassive black holes emit powerful jets of charged particles, at velocities close to the speed of light, directly towards the Earth.
Italian astronomers using the gamma ray imaging detector on the Astro-rivelatore Gamma a Immagini Leggero (AGILE) satellite noticed marked changes in the behaviour of eight blazars.
The team then trained a number of ground and space-based telescopes from other observatories on each blazer, enabling them to observe the jets in a range of energies from gamma ray to radio wavelengths.
Blazars typically emit energy in a wide range of frequencies, ejected in two narrow, oppositely-directed beams.
When a large amount of matter falls into the central black hole, the blazer's jets increase in intensity.