The Woman Behind The First Ever Black Hole Photo


Interestingly, newspaper reports state that Bowman comes from a computer science and electrical engineering background, and at one time, did not even know what a black hole was. In order to do that, the team needed algorithms that could distill all that noisy, messy information into one comprehensible picture.

Both MIT and the Smithsonian also tweeted to laud Bouman's achievements.

The image of the black hole was taken in a galaxy known as M87, where, for 16 years, astronomers observed stars rotating in an orbit.

IMAGE: Reaction of Katie Bouman, who led the creation of an algorithm to produce first image of black hole.

On Wednesday, we Earthlings got our first direct look at a black hole, thanks to the Event Horizon Telescope, an array of eight radio telescopes around the world working together to create the image. And Bouman, whose expertise is not in astrophysics but computer science, was one of a small group of people who spent years developing and testing those methods.

"No matter what we did, you would have to bend over backwards insane to get something that wasn't this ring", Bouman said.

Bouman's algorithm - CHIRP (or Continuous High-resolution Image Reconstruction using Patch priors) - uses the sparse data collected from telescopes to help choose and verify an image to help fill in the gaps. She's heading to the California Institute of Technology this year where she will be an assistant professor in the Department of Computing and Mathematical Sciences.

Bouman joined the Event Horizon Telescope project team six years ago.

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So, after the stunning image was revealed to the world Wednesday, Bouman's excitement spilled out at what seemed the speed of light.

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. "Even though we had worked on this for years, I don't think any of us expected we would get a ring that easily", she says.

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

"We could've just gotten a blob".

Dr Bouman could not hide her delight.

In mathematics and computer science, an algorithm is a process or set of rules used to solve problems.

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.