Wednesday, 16 October, 2019

The Woman Behind The First Ever Black Hole Photo

The Woman Behind The First Ever Black Hole Photo Black Hole Event Horizon space Katie Bouman astronomy photo
Sandy Nunez | 08 October, 2019, 08:25

Katie Bouman is a 29-year old assistant professor of computing and mathematical sciences at Caltech, and she developed an algorithm at MIT which enabled the first photo of a black hole to be taken.

Inspired by her algorithm proposed in her graduate school work at MIT, researchers created three scripted code pipelines to piece together the picture. Trying to capture an object that has a gravitational pull so powerful that not only light can escape would intimidate many but for Bouman and her team, it was all part of the fun.

Katie Bouman, MIT computer scientist.

Bouman posing with data collected by the Event Horizon Telescope project.

Bouman's work did not go unnoticed.

"The Black Hole photo is very impressive, but I'm more interested in where they got these 80TB drives", said one Redditor. And while that doesn't make her any more deserving of applause - Bouman emphasizes that the project was "a team effort" - it does make her a potential role model for young girls who lack examples compared to their male peers. It showed a smiling Bouman with the black hole image on her computer screen. But in the midst of making jokes about how that photo kinda sorta looks the eye of Sauron and wondering how this newfound information could impact Albert Einstein's theories of gravity, social media focused on making sure one of the women behind the project gets credit for her contributions. "The imaging algorithms we developed fill in the missing gaps of the disco ball in order to reconstruct the underlying black hole image". I've really enjoyed this peek into how she was organizing her methods and finding inspiration back in 2017, back when the black hole image was a possibility and not yet realized.

"Congratulations to Katie Bouman to whom we owe the first photograph of a black hole ever".

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But atmospheric disturbance and the spareness of the measurements meant "an infinite number of possible images" could explain the data, Bouman said. It's nearly like seeing one pixel in an image (but it's in a different kind of domain).

The black hole they captured is 55 million light years away at the heart of the Messier 87 galaxy. "It came together because of lots of different people from many backgrounds".

I have an interest in how can we see things or measure things that are thought to be invisible to us.

'Let's be real, she probably didn't do anything except sit around, ' one user wrote.

Bouman started developing the algorithm three years ago as a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Harvard graduate student Andrew Chael, who was a member of the worldwide team that took the groundbreaking photo, is slamming her haters and defending her work, saying it was key to developing the algorithm that captured the extraordinary snap.