University of MI alum helps discover first image of black hole

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

Area scientists celebrate first picture of a black hole

The image shared Wednesday, which has been likened to a molten doughnut or the Eye of Sauron or even a Rembrandt, is a composite of several such reconstructions.

"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. Bouman also led the development of a new algorithm to produce the first-ever image of a black hole as a grad student at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory three years ago. With the extra imaging muscle, she says, they may one day be able to create videos of black holes in addition to the still images. This is known as the black hole's shadow or silhouette.

Her profile picture on Facebook was captioned: "Watching in disbelief as the first image ever made of a black hole was in the process of being reconstructed".

The image was collated by Event Horizon Telescopes located throughout the globe, from Chile to Antartica, while a team of scientists had to wait for just the right conditions to take the shot.

Bouman said in an interview with Nature that the breakthrough is just the beginning of learning more about black holes.

The first visualisation of a black hole looks set to revolutionise our understanding of one of the great mysteries of the universe.

If that's not challenging enough, the black hole is more than 500 million trillion kilometers away. There has been incredibly strong evidence that black holes exist for a long time, but this still isn't the same as directly observing the thing itself.

When the first-ever image was unveiled Wednesday, it prompted overwhelming excitement online, not only for science but also for the scientist behind it.

Alan Marscher, professor of astronomy at Boston University.

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.

The scientists didn't talk to other teams about the details of their work as they analyzed their data.

"No one algorithm or person made this image", she said.

But last summer, when the teams gathered at the Black Hole Initiative to share their findings, the startling similarities prompted an outpouring of celebration and awe.

She had started developing the algorithm while she was a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). 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 we kept getting the ring".

The fact that black holes do not allow light to escape makes viewing them hard.

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