NASA telescope spots black hole shrinking after devouring a star

CNET | 1/9/2019 | Jackson Ryan
cobra662 (Posted by) Level 3
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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.

People - J1820 - Wiser - NASA - Neutron

It's embarrassing when people watch you eat, but J1820 was none the wiser as NASA swung the Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) to monitor its buffet. 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.

Research - Jan - Nature - Evidence - Way

The research, published on Jan. 10 in Nature, provides some tantalizing new evidence about the way a black hole evolves once it gobbles up a star. The major takeaway for the team was the the black hole's corona was shrinking.

Now, let's back up -- what does that actually mean? A black hole is a collapsed star with a core so dense that it has near-unimaginable gravitational power. Its gravity is so powerful that nothing -- no particles, no light -- can escape its pull. When a black hole begins to eat up a star, the star's gases swirl around its gravitational center in a ring known as an accretion disk. Above...
(Excerpt) Read more at: CNET
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