Who is Katie Bouman? Know the woman behind first black hole image

The MIT Computer Scientist Whose Algorithm Led To The First Real Image Of A Black Hole

Bouman is a 29-year-old PhD candidate in computer science and artificial intelligence from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and researches emerging methods for imaging technology.

"Watching in disbelief as the first image I ever made of a black hole was in the process of being reconstructed", Bouman wrote Wednesday, sharing a photo on Facebook from the day when the image was constructed.

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

According to Nasa, a black hole "is an extremely dense object from which no light can escape".

"Telescopes around the world collected high-frequency radio waves from the vicinity of Messier 87, a supermassive black hole 54 million light-years away".

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

Scientists say the picture Bouman helped capture proves Albert Einstein's theory of relativity.

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The project also plumbed the expertise of scientists at MIT's Haystack Observatory in Westford, Boston University, Brandeis University, and the University of MA, among others.

The image was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope, a network of eight linked telescopes, before being rendered by Bouman's algorithm, the BBC reported.

The black hole is about 6 billion times the mass of our sun and is in a galaxy called M87.

A black hole's event horizon is the point of no return beyond which anything - stars, planets, gas, dust and all forms of electromagnetic radiation - gets swallowed into oblivion.

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.

Alan Marscher, professor of astronomy at Boston University.

The results of the algorithms were then analysed by four separate teams to build confidence in the veracity of their findings. "It's working toward making the first image of a black hole". She earned her undergraduate degree at the University of MI and went on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for her master's and doctorate. 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. But that didn't deter her from "coming up with ways to see or measure things that are invisible", she said.

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The finding confirmed the existence of massive black holes that some skeptics had continued to doubt, even as science fiction and the entertainment industry have used them to captivate and terrify the earthbound.

The computational telescope that Bouman and her colleagues managed to devise is theoretically as large as the Earth.

"It's not that common in science that you can get such a clean confirmation of such a theoretical explanation", Marscher said.

Several of the scientists involved were from the MIT Haystack Observatory, including Vincent Fish.

Haystack also received disks with recorded data from those observatories and processed them in a supercomputer.

"No one of us could've done it alone", Bouman said.

"I think it looks very convincing", said Andrea Ghez, director of the UCLA Galactic Center Group, who wasn't part of the discovery team.

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Bouman is still starting out in her own career.

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