Penangite among first scientists behind historic black hole image


The historic image of the black hole came from telescope data collected by the Event Horizon Telescope two years ago, but it took so long to complete the image because it was a massive undertaking, involving about 200 scientists, supercomputers and hundreds of terabytes of data delivered worldwide by plane. The telescopes are part of the global Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project. We have spent an enormous amount of time making sure that what we were seeing was actually real and not just something that, even subconsciously, we might have imposed on the data.

Four teams of scientists worked independently to analyze their data, retrieved over 10 days in April 2017 by telescopes from Mexico to Antarctica to Hawaii. And Bouman's contribution was a crucial one in the recent, epic success that sped that process of trial-and-error considerably. And after the image was unveiled to the world on Wednesday, Bouman began earning accolades from fellow scientists, historians and politicians for her significant achievement.

"We blurred two of the images and then averaged them to the other one to get the image that we showed today", Bouman said. "The ring came so easily".

Google Doodle artist Nate Swinehart was sketching scenes for a black hole animation while in his auto on the way to work, at the same time as EHT representatives prepared to announce their landmark achievement, a Google representative told Live Science in an email.

Supermassive black holes are situated at the center of most galaxies, including ours, and are so dense that nothing, not even light, can escape their gravitational pull. The ring of material that surrounds M87*, which has the mass of 6.5 billion suns, "is something that we were incredibly confident about".

Researchers with the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration presented the "groundbreaking result" during six simultaneous press conferences held around the globe.

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"It has been truly an honor, and I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with you all", Bouman wrote. Black holes are thought to be the "driving engines" of galaxies, "affecting the largest scales of the universe", she added. Research techniques and algorithms will continue to be improved until, for example, the matter spinning around the edges of the black hole can be studied further.

"We have achieved something presumed to be impossible just a generation ago", said astrophysicist Sheperd Doeleman, director of the Event Horizon Telescope at the Center for Astrophysics (CfA), Harvard & Smithsonian. But if a person were to somehow get close to this black hole, it might not look quite like that, astronomers said. Which is what we have the privilege of doing now.

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

Bouman did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for an interview.

Dr. Bouman is now a post-doctoral fellow at MIT, but will soon start as an assistant professor of computing and mathematical sciences at the California Institute of Technology.