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The Woman Behind The First Ever Black Hole Photo

08 October 2019

MIT graduate and computer scientist Katie Bouman, 29, led the creation of a new algorithm used for the breakthrough.

Inspired by her algorithm proposed in her graduate school work at MIT, researchers created three scripted code pipelines to piece together the picture.

According to Nasa, a black hole "is an extremely dense object from which no light can escape".

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

What's equally notable is that Katie Bouman did this without any evidence of anyone trying to derail her from her desired work objectives.

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"To image something this small means that we would need a telescope with a 10,000-kilometer diameter, which is not practical, because the diameter of the Earth is not even 13,000 kilometers", Bouman explained at the time.

Dr Bouman could not hide her delight. Over the years, physicists and engineers had seen orbits, galaxies and move in a slingshot whirling motion around what many thought could be a black hole. "However, you might be surprised to know that that may soon change". Presumably, this was just one cache as 64 HDDs could only hold 5PB if they were 80TB capacity, something drive makers have not achieved yet.

Bouman, a postdoctoral fellow with the Event Horizon Telescope and an assistant professor in the computing and mathematical sciences department at Caltech, was one of more than 200 scientists who participated in the project, overseen by Shep Doeleman, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. She wrote alongside, "Watching in disbelief as the first image I ever made of a black hole was in the process of being reconstructed".

What we have to end up doing is imposing things called "regularizors" or "priors" that allow us to say, "Okay, of all of the images that possibly could fit this data, this set of images is most likely". And I heard about this project, this idea of imaging black holes.

"To have to wait this long, it's been frustrating in one sense but now so awesome that we have the results", he told 7News. "One key is showing that when you go into fields like computer science and engineering, it's not just sitting in a lab putting together a circuit or typing on your computer".

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Bouman will begin her teaching career at the California Institute of Technology later this year.

"As the Earth rotates, we get to see other new measurements", she continued.

In the above time-lapse video from the European Southern Observatory taken over 20 years, the elliptical orbit of the star closest to Sagittarius A*, the Supermassive Black Hole (SMBH) that sits in the center of our galaxy, can been seen accelerating to a significant fraction of the speed of light at the perigee of its orbit.

That historic first photo of a black hole was released to the public on Wednesday after years of work on an worldwide project called Event Horizon Telescope.

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The Woman Behind The First Ever Black Hole Photo