The grad whose algorithm lead to first black hole image

  • The grad whose algorithm lead to first black hole image

The grad whose algorithm lead to first black hole image

Katie Bouman, a computer scientist who was a student studying at MIT, is the person who is credited with coming up with the algorithm that made the capturing of the image possible.

The glowing ring surrounding the "event horizon" around a black hole is not exactly a photo, but pixels pieced together using the algorithm. In 1969, Hamilton helped write on-board computer code for NASA's Apollo space program.

A global network of telescopes known as the Event Horizon Telescope project collected millions of gigabytes of data about M87 using a technique known as interferometry.

But, as news broke about the monumental discovery, Bouman's crucial contribution to the project appeared to go largely overlooked.

"I'm so excited that we finally get to share what we have been working on for the past year!"

In the hours after the photo's momentous release, Dr Bouman became an worldwide sensation, with her name trending on Twitter.

Or as one data hoarder put it, "Black holes are cool, I guess, but imagine all the [lossless Blu-Ray files] you could store on those bad boys, in RAID 1 no less".

Just to clarify, this was the first image *ANYONE EVER MADE* of a black hole.

Bouman was among a team of 200 researchers who contributed to the breakthrough, but on Wednesday, a picture of her triumphantly beaming as the image of the black hole materialised on her computer screen went viral, with many determined that Bouman's indispensable role was not written out of history - as so often has been the case for female scientists and researchers. She shared her pure moment of excitement watching the image being reconstructed on Facebook yesterday.

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

Bouman says that most of the time she's not focused on the fact that she's in a field where women are the minority. "If you know what one pixel is, you have a good guess as to what the pixel is next to it".

But Dr Bouman, now an assistant professor of computing and mathematical sciences at the California Institute of Technology, insisted the team that helped her deserves equal credit. "We wanted to develop many different algorithms that all have different assumptions built into them". With enthusiasm, she describes all the other unseeable things that might be seen with the right combination of hardware and software.

"The new image revealed is the shadow of a supermassive black hole at the center of Messier 87, an elliptical galaxy 55 million light years from Earth". Many organizations credited the entire Event Horizon Telescope team who worked to capture the image and praised Albert Einstein's theories on general relativity for predicting what the black hole might look like.