10-01-2020 • Matter swirling around supermassive black holes creates bursts of light that "echo" in nearby dust clouds. These traveling signals could serve as a new cosmic yardstick. When you look up at the night sky, how do you know whether the specks of light that you see are bright and far away, or relatively faint and close by? One way to find out is to compare how much light the object actually emits with how bright it appears. The difference between its true luminosity and its apparent brightness reveals an object's distance from the observer.