After years of work on an international project called Event Horizon Telescope, 29-year-old computer scientist Katherine Bouman and an international team of more than 200 researchers presented the first picture of a black hole lying at the center of the M87 galaxy, reports BBC News.
According to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the story began three years ago when the researchers worked to gather astronomical data that they hoped to turn into the world’s first image of a black hole.
3 years ago MIT grad student Katie Bouman led the creation of a new algorithm to produce the first-ever image of a black hole.— MIT CSAIL (@MIT_CSAIL) April 10, 2019
Today, that image was released.
More info: https://t.co/WITAL1omGl
2016 story: https://t.co/QV7Zf2snEP#EHTblackhole #EventHorizonTelescope pic.twitter.com/u6FBswmGDZ
To make this possible, the team needed algorithms that could help devise imaging methods. And that is when MIT graduate Katherine led the creation of a crucial algorithm that produced the first-ever image of a black hole now making headlines.
“We developed ways to generate synthetic data and used different algorithms and tested blindly to see if we can recover an image. We didn’t want to just develop one algorithm. We wanted to develop many different algorithms that all have different assumptions built into them,” Katie explained to CNN.
When they finally succeeded, she was pictured loading the historical image on her laptop, a surreal moment for the excited scientist.
"Watching in disbelief as the first image I ever made of a black hole was in the process of being reconstructed," she captioned the picture on Facebook.
According to the Event Horizon Telescope website, “this long-sought image provides the strongest evidence to date for the existence of supermassive black holes and opens a new window onto the study of black holes.”
In 2016 Katie delivered a TedX talk on how to take a picture of a black hole. She explained in the video that, “getting this first picture will come down to an international team of scientists, an earth-sized telescope and an algorithm that puts together the final picture.”
And because history has rarely given women scientists the recognition they deserve, social media users circulated her pictures, particularly of the one where she is standing next to a table stacked with hard drives of data.
People compared her photo to an iconic 1969 image of computer scientist Margaret Hamilton with the printout of the Apollo guidance software code she and her team developed.
“Katie Bouman proved women in STEM don't just make the impossible, possible, but make history while doing it,” said US senator Kamala Harris on Twitter.
Congratulations to Katie Bouman to whom we owe the first photograph of a black hole ever. Not seeing her name circulate nearly enough in the press.— Tamy Emma Pepin (@TamyEmmaPepin) April 10, 2019
Amazing work. And here’s to more women in science (getting their credit and being remembered in history) ?????? pic.twitter.com/wcPhB6E5qK
really good days are when an astronomical discovery is made. the BEST days are when a woman is behind that discovery—and getting her due credit.— Sarafina Nance (@starstrickenSF) April 10, 2019
this is Katie Bouman, and she created the algorithm that produced the first ever image of a black hole.
Well done to all the women who played a role in this historic discovery. We cannot wait to see more women in STEM fields acknowledged and celebrated for their work.
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