Science

Meet Katie Bouman, woman behind first black hole photo

Meet Katie Bouman, woman behind first black hole photo”

Bouman was a graduate student in computer science and artificial intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) when she first led an global team of astronomers creating the world's largest telescope to take the first image of a blackhole.

Three years ago, Katie Bouman was an electrical engineering and computer science graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The 29-year-old worked with MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the MIT Haystack Observatory and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics for the last several years, leading to the development of the algorithm. "Today, that image was released".

It was the algorithm created by a female graduate student that made the first-ever image of a black hole possible.

Black holes are areas so massive they warp space and time so much that even light can not escape.

The image of M87 will occupy scientists for weeks, months and even years to come as they analyze it from every perspective.

But, as news broke about the monumental discovery, Bouman's crucial contribution to the project appeared to go largely overlooked. She told nobody except her colleagues.

Bouman's algorithm was at the heart of coordinating eight telescopes scattered across five continents and aiming them at two black holes scientists are particularly eager to study. We have to come up with methods that take this really sparse, really noisy data, and try to find the image that might have caused those measurements.

Bouman told The Washington Post that when she first head of the Event Horizon Telescope project, she "hardly even knew" what a black hole was, but she did know it was a challenge she wanted to work on.

The first image of a black hole became a meme as people compared it to things like food. With the increased perspective and power, she says, they just might be able to make movies of black holes in addition to still images.

Event Horizon has ambitious plans to expand, adding new telescopes to the network that will boost its power, and hopefully, one day give it the ability to create videos of black holes in addition to the still images. In one photo from the BBC, Bouman is standing next to a table stacked with hard drives of data.

She was one of about three dozen computer scientists who used algorithms to process data gathered by the Event Horizon Telescope project, a worldwide collaboration of astronomers, engineers and mathematicians.

We now have our very first image of a black hole.

The existence of black holes has always been taken for granted because of the severe effect their gravity has on the orbits of stars in the galactic core.

"It required the incredible talent of a team of scientists from around the globe and years of hard work to develop the instrument, data processing, imaging methods, and analysis techniques that were necessary to pull off this seemingly impossible feat", she said.

"I've been involved with the project since 2007", he said.

Black holes are the "most extreme environment in the known universe", Broderick said, a violent, churning place of "gravity run amok". We could have gotten just a blob.



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