Science

Who Is Katie Bouman, the Woman Behind the First Black Hole Photo?

Who Is Katie Bouman, the Woman Behind the 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 worldwide team of astronomers creating the world's largest telescope to take the first image of a blackhole. The algorithms they developed seamlessly stitched together the data to create the wondrous image we see today. Black holes have historically been impossible to observe due to their nature of swallowing every bit of light that tries to escape it. In 1969, Hamilton helped write on-board computer code for NASA's Apollo space program.

Bouman is a postdoctoral fellow working with the Event Horizon Telescope team that released the revolutionary photograph.

What's equally notable is that Katie Bouman did this without any evidence of anyone trying to derail her from her desired work objectives.

"It required the awesome 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. 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. Over the years, physicists and engineers had seen orbits, galaxies and move in a slingshot whirling motion around what many thought could be a black hole. 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.

But atmospheric disturbance and the spareness of the measurements meant "an infinite number of possible images" could explain the data, Bouman said.

The massive Black hole in the photo released Wednesday is 55 million light years away at the center of a galaxy known as M87.

'Can we just be amazed at this wonderful scientific development and not turn it into some bullshit political battle?' one user said.

On Wednesday, a team of astrophysicists from around the globe bought us the first ever image of a black hole. She's the computer scientist that created the algorithm that turned telescopic data in to the now famous first image of a black hole.

Researchers from all over the world had combined forces to gather masses of astronomical data - enough to fill a half ton of hard drives - that they hoped to turn into the world's first image of a black hole.

"How do we get more women involved?" she says. "If you know what one pixel is, you have a good guess as to what the pixel is next to it". She quickly embraced the challenge to measure and see the impossible. She later became a postdoctoral researcher with the global Event Horizon Telescope, or EHT, project.

Bouman starts teaching as an assistant professor at California Institute of Technology in the fall.



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