Published: Fri, April 12, 2019
Life&Culture | By Sue Mclaughlin

Katie Bouman: The woman behind the first black hole image

Katie Bouman: The woman behind the first black hole image

While much around a black hole falls into a death spiral and is never to be seen again, the new image captures "lucky gas and dust" circling at just far enough to be safe and seen millions of years later on Earth, Dempsey said.

She spearheaded development of a computer algorithm that made the scientific discovery possible.

Katie Bouman (or Katherine L. Bouman) first learned about the Event Horizon Telescope in 2007, back in high school in West Lafayette, Indiana, then pursued it as work in college at the University of MI. Black holes are the universe's most powerful vacuum.

Bouman was a graduate student in computer science and artificial intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) when she first led an global team of astronomers creating the world's largest telescope to take the first image of a blackhole. "[Taking a picture of the black hole in the center of the Milky Way galaxy is] equivalent to taking an image of a grapefruit on the moon, but with a radio telescope".

In a highly-anticipated string of press conferences held simultaneously around the world on Wednesday, Event Horizon Telescope revealed the incredible image.

"We didn't want to just develop one algorithm".

"I am inspired by Katie Bouman", Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the executive director of U.N. Women, wrote on Twitter.

The somewhat fuzzy photo of the black hole at the center of Messier 87, or M87, a massive galaxy residing in the center of the relatively nearby Virgo galaxy cluster, shows a glowing ring of red, yellow and white surrounding a dark center.

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Researchers said they will continue to refine the image and study the discovery, which brought astonishment and wonder to the team of over 200 people involved in the research, Doeleman said.

Black holes are used to describe regions in space with a gravitational pull so strong that not even light can escape after getting pulled in. Light gets bent and twisted around by gravity in a weird funhouse effect as it gets sucked into the abyss along with superheated gas and dust, the AP reported.

The new image confirmed yet another piece of Einstein's general theory of relativity.

"I have an interest in how can we see things or measure things that are thought to be invisible to us", Bouman told the Post.

Scientists have called the first image of a black hole one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of the 20th century.

Scientists released an image of a black hole captured by the Event Horizon Telescope, a project of eight radio-based telescopes tasked with capturing a visual representation of a black hole. And as the world saw today, the answer was a resounding "yes". "Numerous features of the observed image match our theoretical understanding surprisingly well", said Paul T.P. Ho, a board member on the project and director of the East Asian Observatory.

The black hole itself is roughly 40 billion kilometres across - so, pretty big - and located in a distant galaxy 500 million trillion kilometres away.

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