About 10,000 light years away from Earth, a black hole is engaged in a stellar feast, devouring the gases of a nearby star -- and we've been watching.
The stellar-mass black hole, around 10 times more massive than our sun, was discovered after a humongous X-ray flare in March 2018.
It was originally detected by a specialized instrument aboard the International Space Station, operated by the Japanese Aerospace and Exploration Agency, known as the Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image (MAXI).
After the X-ray burst captivated astronomers, researchers at MIT, the University of Maryland and NASA swung another instrument on board the station to watch what happened to the black hole, nicknamed J1820.
NICER continued to detect waves of X-ray light bouncing away from the black hole, called "light echoes", which demonstrated how the black hole's size and shape was changing over time.
"NICER has allowed us to measure light echoes closer to a stellar-mass black hole than ever before," said first author Erin Kara.