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

Katie Bouman

Twitter MIT Katie Bouman

Bouman delivered a TED talk in 2016 called "How to take a picture of a black hole", where she explained "getting this first picture will come down to an global team of scientists, an Earth-sized telescope and an algorithm that puts together the final picture".

Bouman has since graduated from MIT and will start as an assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology this fall.

Katie Bouman, 29, is a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who has been working with the Event Horizon Telescope project since 2017.

In the image released Wednesday, the black hole is outlined by an orange ring that is actually emission from hot gas swirling near its event horizon.

The first ever image of a black hole was widely shared this week, thanks to the work of The National Science Foundation and Dr. Katie Bouman, the scientist who developed the algorithm that made the image possible. Her passion is "coming up with ways to see or measure things that are invisible", which made her a good candidate for attempting to produce an image of a black hole, a region of space that has a gravitational pull so powerful that nothing, including light, can escape.

Excitedly bracing herself for the groundbreaking moment, Ms Bouman was pictured loading the image on her laptop.

Bouman did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but told CNN, "No one of us could've done it alone". "We all watched as the images appeared on our computers", Bouman says. "And for data like this, that is so sparse, so noisy, where it's so hard to try to find an image, that was a risky game to play". 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. Nasa added that this black hole is 6.5 million times the mass of the Sun.

The data captured from each telescope was stored on hard drives and then flown to three central processing centres in Boston, US, and Bonn in Germany.

Dr Bouman told MIT News that taking the image of a black hole is "equivalent to taking an image of a grapefruit on the moon, but with a radio telescope". But Wednesday's announcement in Washington, D.C., and five other locations around the globe is the first to display an image of a massive black hole.

Vincent Fish, a research scientist at the observatory, said Haystack served as an equipment clearinghouse, sending special components and systems for recording data from the black hole project to observatories worldwide.

Telescopes around the world collected high-frequency radio waves from the vicinity of Messier 87 (M87), a galaxy with a supermassive black hole 54 million light-years away.

The attention on Bouman may give a skewed impression of the number of women involved in the EHT project.

Black holes are the "most extreme environment in the known universe", Broderick said, a violent, churning place of "gravity run amok".

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