June 24, 2019

The First Picture Of A Black Hole Was Taken By A Woman

11 April 2019, 09:54 | Edward Lowe

A snap of you and your nearest and dearest?

If her contribution had to be summarised in under 280 characters, it'd be this tweet by MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab.

A doctoral graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is being lauded for her pivotal role on an worldwide team of scientists who Wednesday revealed the first-ever image of a black hole.

The American computer scientist led development of a programme that made the wonderful image possible. The photo shows a ring of dust and gas surrounding the shadow of a mass at the center of the Messier 87 (M87) galaxy.

For Ms Bouman, its creation was the realisation of an endeavour previously thought impossible. And the quietly excited and overwhelmed look on Katie's face says it all.

Excitedly bracing herself for the groundbreaking moment, Ms Bouman was pictured loading the image on her laptop. Beats your pouting selfie, doesn't it?

Katie Bouman smiles while the image of the black hole is processed.

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She started making the algorithm three years ago while she was a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

"We've been busting at the seams about what we've seen, but we had to keep our mouths shut", said Bouman, 29, a doctoral graduate of MIT who continued her studies at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

By Wednesday evening, Bouman's name was trending nationally on Twitter.

Even Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took a few seconds off from serving up realness on the House floor and building her own Ikea furniture, and tweeted, "Take your rightful seat in history, Dr. Bouman!"

Scientists released the first-ever image made of a black hole, revealing a fiery doughnut-shaped object in a galaxy 53 million light-years from Earth, on Wednesday, April 10.

The image comes after years of data collection and analysis by 200 scientists.

Bouman did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but told CNN, "No one of us could've done it alone".

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"Radio wavelengths come with a lot of advantages", Bouman said in the press release.

So what are we actually looking at?

The positioning of the eight observatories essentially allowed the researchers to turn the rotating Earth into one enormous telescope with extraordinary resolution - about 3 million times sharper than 20/20 vision.

University of Amsterdam scientist Sera Markoff explained, "You're really looking at a super-massive black hole that's nearly the size of our entire solar system".

An algorithm is a process or set of rules used to solve problems. In one photo from the BBC, Bouman is standing next to a table stacked with hard drives of data.

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. We wanted to develop many different algorithms that all have different assumptions built into them.

The results of each algorithms were analysed by four separate teams to build confidence in the accuracy of their findings. Astronomical images share these properties, and you can mathematically encode these properties, Fish said.

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